SEA Games: Sariful the hero as Young Lions set up high-stakes Indonesia clash

SEA Games: Sariful the hero as Young Lions set up high-stakes Indonesia clash
SSHHHHH: Sahil Suhaimi silencing his critics after scoring Singapore’s third goal against Cambodia last night. The striker has been under fire for his profligacy in the first two games.

Safirul Sulaiman will probably go down as the first footballer to cramp up after a question from the media.

Seated next to coach Aide Iskandar at the post-match press conference, after the Singapore Under-23s beat their Cambodian counterparts 3-1 in a South-east Asia (SEA) Games Group A clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night, the midfielder was asked about his thoughts of his spectacular opening goal.

He winced in pain, stood up holding his thigh and said, "cramp, cramp" - much to the amusement of everyone in the room.

The person who laughed the loudest was his father Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, who was seated in a wheelchair with the rest of Safirul's family.

"I was delighted because I've been wanting to score for my dad for the longest time," the 22-year-old said.

"My dad is suffering after a stroke, so the goal and this win go to him."

How the Young Lions needed that moment of brilliance from Safirul - a curling free-kick that swerved past the Cambodian wall and their despairing goalkeeper to nestle into the far corner of the net.

Needing a victory to stay alive in the tournament, the Singapore U-23s started the game with their full cache of firepower, with Irfan Fandi and Sahil Suhaimi starting together up front.

But dominant as they were in possession, Aide's charges struggled to carve out a real chance - until the free-kick in the 45th minute.

"It was my first free-kick goal in professional football," said the left-footed Safirul.

"I wanted to aim for the near post, but Sahil told me to go far. I took his advice and it paid off."

The goal stunned the Cambodians, who conceded once more a minute later when Irfan clipped a cross for Faris Ramli to head home.

The Cambodians pulled a goal back in a tepid second half, but Sahil struck his first tournament goal in injury time to seal victory.

The 22-year-old striker beat the offside trap, latched on to a through-ball from substitute Amy Recha and drilled the ball into the bottom corner.

The goals from Faris and Sahil were a timely boost for Aide and the Young Lions, as they prepare to face Indonesia on Thursday in a must-win clash for a place in the semi-finals. "Faris and Sahil have gotten a lot of criticism the past few games," Aide said.

"Before the game, I told Sahil he would score; he just had to be patient.

"I think now you'll see the best from both of them."

Should the Indonesians beat the Philippines tonight, they will go level on points with Singapore heading into the final group game.

In that event, the hosts cannot afford a draw because of their inferior goal difference.

The Young Lions must do without suspended left back Shakir Hamzah for the game and Aide will be sweating on the fitness of Irfan, who came off in the 54th minute last night because of cramps.

"We are not wanting to go into any game thinking of a draw, anyway. It's always better to play needing a win," said Aide, of his team's meeting with Indonesia.

"They still have to beat the Philippines but, if they play for a draw against us, it will be risky for them.

"The boys will no doubt be eager to watch Indonesia play (tonight) and they've already seen them twice.

"We'll be ready for them. It's going to be a really good game."

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 09, 2015.
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