SEA Games: Under-fire striker accepts criticism but vows to come good

SEA Games: Under-fire striker accepts criticism but vows to come good
UNDER PRESSURE: Singapore Under-23 striker Sahil Suhaimi says he has been trying too hard to score.

Sahil Suhaimi has just learnt how much life as a professional football can change in under two weeks.

After receiving a hero's homecoming on May 24, following his two goals in the LionsXII's 3-1 Malaysian FA Cup final victory over Kelantan, the 22-year-old has come under fire from fans.

The striker has had two disappointing outings for the Singapore Under-23s in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, failing to score during the 1-0 win over the Philippines on Monday and the 2-1 defeat by Myanmar on Thursday.

The youngster has had chances, most notably in the 69th minute of the Myanmar game, when - with the Young Lions trailing by a goal - he blazed a shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Much has been expected from Sahil, who, blessed with skill and an eye for goal, is touted as the Republic's best striking prospect.

He was Singapore's top scorer with three goals at the 2013 Games in Myanmar, and many expected him - along with LionsXII teammate Faris Ramli - to lead the line for Aide Iskandar's team as the Young Lions chase their first SEA Games gold.

Instead, the team are now staring down the barrel after the Myanmar defeat, and must now win both their remaining games against Cambodia next Monday and Indonesia on Thursday to reach the semi-finals.

When The New Paper spoke to him yesterday, Sahil knew what was coming. He explained that a poor first game has compounded his desperation to get off the mark.

"I had a bad start. In the first game, I missed a lot of chances, and now I'm just trying too hard to score," he said.

"One goal will definitely change everything. If I had scored against Myanmar, I would have got going."

Dissecting his crucial miss in that game, Sahil said: "I just wanted the ball in the back of the net. I didn't over-strike it. I aimed left, but I missed."

Sahil admitted that he's been struggling to compose himself on the pitch, and accepted that he's been slightly selfish at times.

But, as the team's lead striker, he feels he has to take on extra responsibility.

"As a striker, you have to take your chances. When I get a bit of space, I will shoot. You have to be selfish sometimes," he explained.

Sahil's profligacy, coupled with two promising performances off the bench from 17-year-old Irfan Fandi, have sparked calls for a change in personnel up front for Singapore.

There are some who feel Irfan should start ahead of his more experienced teammate.

The 22-year-old said he was aware of the sentiment, but has chosen to block it out.

"I've become immune to these comments," Sahil said.

"I don't care what people say, or if they compare me to Irfan. Well, it's up to the coach who should start.

"I'm not bitter about it. I know that when you win, everyone sings your praises. And when you lose, you get slammed.

"Now, I'm starting to see who really supports me and who doesn't."

Against Cambodia on Monday, Sahil has vowed to pick himself up and help the team, as only a win will keep the Young Lions in the semi-final hunt.

"The team will bounce back. I don't want to say too much about that. I'll just let my feet do the talking."


This article was first published on June 06, 2015.
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