Bank on Sahil, Irfan to finish off moves

Watching from the grandstand at the Jalan Besar Stadium, I was happy for Aide Iskandar and his boys that the Singapore Under-23 team started their SEA Games campaign with a 1-0 win over the Philippine U-23s on Monday.

Although the footballers looked nervous and sometimes rushed their final decisions when in crucial positions, they got the victory they wanted.

With the amount of chances that the Young Lions produced, they should have been looking at a bigger winning margin.

If they are to win the gold, the chances should become goals and not mere statistics for shots on and off target.

To stand the best chance of achieving that, Aide must go with the front pair of Sahil Suhaimi and Irfan Fandi.

Irfan was a 36th-minute substitute and, to me, was the brightest spark in the match.

For a tall player, he has very good feet.

His presence caused all sorts of problems for the Philippine defence and opened up plenty of space for Sahil.

The Young Lions started playing well only after Irfan came on so you can see how important it is for him to start.

Sahil, as he proved with a brace in the LionsXII's Malaysian FA Cup final win, is a striker who can finish with aplomb.

But against the Philippines, he was trying too hard, choosing to be spectacular when he could have placed the ball.

In Sahil and Irfan, Singapore have a potential gold-winning front line but they must rise to the occasion, starting with today's match against Myanmar.

The same profligacy that the Young Lions showed against the Philippines will be punished by better teams.

It will be a big boost if Shahfiq Ghani, who is sidelined by injury, is back to face Myanmar.

He is not only deadly with his set pieces but can also pick out a pass.

A win is in the bag but the SEA Games competition is a marathon.

To win in this marathon, they need goals and, against Myanmar, I hope to watch our boys, especially Irfan and Sahil, get on the scoresheet, and the Young Lions up and roaring.

This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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