Hariss close to a personal milestone

Even as the LionsXII bask in the glory of winning their first Malaysian FA Cup and continue their pursuit of a top-four finish in the league, another Singapore footballer is chasing a place in history.

If Malaysian Super League (MSL) leaders Johor Darul Ta'zim successfully defend their crown, Singapore midfield star Hariss Harun would have the distinction of winning three titles in a row.

Hariss (below) was a key figure when the LionsXII lifted the MSL title in 2013, and tasted success again in his first season at JDT last year.

Tonight, he will be battling many familiar faces when his JDT side entertain the LionsXII in a mouth-watering encounter at Larkin Stadium and, speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the 24-year-old said: "Every footballer wants to be up there challenging for the title and I am no different.

"It is in our hands to defend our title and it would be a great honour to make it a personal hat-trick and I want to help the team get the job done."

With JDT holding only a one-point lead over Pahang at the MSL summit, his old club could well play a major role in the destiny of this season's title.

Hariss is not expecting any favours from his friends and national team-mates.

"With just four games left, every match is like a final for us and the LionsXII will want the three points badly because they want to finish in the top four to be seeded for the Malaysia Cup," he said.

"There will definitely be mixed feelings going up against my friends and former teammates. It is never easy to play the LionsXII and, while we have homeground advantage, we cannot afford to take them lightly."

Last season, Hariss initially struggled to get into the first team of a star-studded JDT team, but he has now made the central midfield position his own, alongside Malaysia national captain Safiq Rahim.

Boasting such a formidable engine room, they have beaten all MSL opponents at the Larkin Stadium to overhaul Pahang at the top of the standings.

Even as he enters into discussions with JDT over an extension of his existing two-year contract, which ends at the end of 2015, Hariss is sure that his overseas stint has helped him become a better footballer.

Right now, he is focused on only one thing.

"It is always more difficult to retain the title than to win it for the first time and we have done well to be on course to win it again," he said.

"It won't be easy, but we are up for the challenge and we want to finish the league season well."

This article was first published on August 12, 2015.
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