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Football: Spirited LionsXII grab fighting 2-2 draw with Johor

Second-half fightback from LionsXII secures a thrilling 2-2 draw against highly fancied Johor Darul Takzim in the Malaysia Super League. 

JOHOR BAHRU: Fandi Ahmad's new-look LionsXII continued with their promising start to the Malaysia Super League season after they came from behind to steal a point against big spending Johor Darul Takzim at the Larkin Stadium.

The Singapore side, which claimed their first three points of the league campaign over the weekend against Selangor at the Jalan Besar Stadium, looked sluggish in the opening minutes of the clash traditionally dubbed as the "Causeway Derby". 

The home side, urged on by a vociferous capacity crowd, dominated the opening exchanges and grabbed the lead in the 27th minute when Argentine superstar Pablo Aimar sent a defence splitting pass through to compatriot Luciano Figueroa who slotted home for the opener.

Johor continued to pile the pressure and were unlucky to not have extended their lead in the 33rd minute when Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud made a flying save to keep out his ex-LionsXII teammate Baihakki Khaizan.

The home side however, did go on to double their lead five minutes from half-time.

Lions defender Afiq Yunos was yellow-carded for a rash challenge on the edge of penalty box, and Pablo Aimar coolly despatched the resulting free-kick with a superb inch-perfect curling strike that sailed into Izwan's top right-hand corner. 

Fandi's charges came out fighting in the second half and their persistence paid off midway through the period when Khairul Amri headed in his second goal in as many matches -- just a minute after Aimar was substituted in the 65th minute.

The goal breathed new life into the Singapore side and they began to take the game to their more fancied opponents.

Hafiz Sujad then levelled two minutes later from close range, to send the travelling fans into a frenzy.

As the LionsXII grew in confidence, the Johor side sent on former Lions skipper Hariss Harun in the 74th minute to introduce some bite into their fast fading midfield.

Both sides came close late on but the LionsXII were denied a possible penalty deep into injury time when Faris Ramli appeared to have been brought down inside in the box.

But the referee blew for a free kick on the left edge of the penalty box. 

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