Shahril's form boosts national team's chances
Shahril scores match-winner as Warriors end Hougang's unbeaten run
|HOUGANG UNITED||WARRIORS FC|
|(Shahril Ishak 6)|
He has 133 caps and 14 goals for Singapore, but has not made a single international start in national coach V Sundramoorthy's 16 games at the helm.
But, with every passing club match and every goal he has scored for Warriors FC, the calls are getting louder for Shahril Ishak to play a bigger role for the national team that have struggled to win only twice and score just eight times under Sundram.
Last night, the 33-year-old proved to be the difference once again with his sixth-minute goal turning out to be the matchwinner against a stubborn Hougang United side who had goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid in top form.
While he might have been marginally offside when played through by Ho Wai Loon, Shahril played to the referee's whistle, or lack of, and stroked the ball past Khairulhin.
He could have grabbed more than a hat-trick, but was denied by the stiff resistance of Khairulhin and the woodwork in the 64th, 79th and the 93rd minute.
Still, his solitary goal gave his team the three points and ended Hougang's seven-match unbeaten run.
The Warriors remain fourth in the nine-team Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League while Hougang are sixth.
"I'm disappointed not to score more, but what is more important is that we got the win we needed," said Shahril.
"At 33, I try to keep myself in the best condition possible.
"I'm happy to be able to help my team with goals and assists and, of course, I want to contribute to the national team.
"All I can do is to continue to play my best and, hopefully, I will get a chance to play a bigger part for the national team."
This is Shahril's eighth league goal this season, and he also scored four times in his team's run to The New Paper League Cup final, which makes him the top local scorer in both the S.League and in all competitions.
His sterling performances at club level have left other coaches purring with admiration, even as Sundram experiments with square pegs in round holes, most notably in the 2-1 Asian Cup qualifier home defeat by Taiwan in June, when defender Safuwan Baharudin played the full match up front.
The national team's next two matches are a friendly against Hong Kong on Aug 31 and an Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan on Sept 5.
Hougang coach Philippe Aw said: "Shahril has the kind of football brains that not many local players have. He is experienced, and he is scoring goals.
"If you play a long-ball game that requires him to run front to back to chase the ball, then of course he wouldn't last the match. But, if you keep the ball on the ground and let him set up play, then he can definitely contribute to the national team."
This year, Shahril has started all 21 matches for the Warriors, missing just 47 minutes.
Six of his 12 goals have come in the last 20 minutes, with Home United hitman Stipe Plazibat's 11 and Albirex Niigata poacher Tsubasa Sano's eight topping his tally of late strikes.
Warriors coach Razif Onn was more pragmatic in his assessment, and said: "The levels of football in the league and in international matches are different.
"But, for my team, with intelligent combinations with Jordan Webb and now Andrei Ciolacu, Shahril has been fantastic from the first day until now."
|ALBIREX NIIGATA||GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL|