Shahril and Bai: Lions will bounce back from Suzuki Cup exit
It's not easy, but we have to move on.
National team stars Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan, now in pre-season training with second-tier Malaysian club side Johor Darul Ta'zim II, yesterday told The New Paper that the nightmare of Singapore's disastrous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign was still fresh in their memories.
The Lions were knocked out of the tournament at the group stage, despite being the hosts and defending champions.
The duo were part of the JDT squad that beat Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League side Hougang United 3-1 in a friendly match at Hougang Stadium last night.
Skipper Shahril recounted the morning after the controversial 3-1 defeat by Malaysia on Nov 29, which proved to be the final nail in the team's coffin.
"I felt miserable," he said.
"To lose that way to our fierce rivals Malaysia, and get knocked out of the tournament on home ground... I have no words to describe the feeling.
"It's like how we felt in 2010 (when Singapore were knocked out of the Suzuki Cup by Vietnam at the group stage), but at least that was away from home."
The striker added: "It takes time to forget what happened, but it's tough.
"We just have to try and move on. It's not healthy to keep recalling what happened.
"At the end of the day, I'm now in pre-season with JDT, and that's what I have to focus on.
"I'm looking forward to the new season and, of course, the main target is to get promoted to the (top-tier) Malaysian Super League."
Shahril sat out last night's match, nursing a minor knee injury, while Baihakki played in the first half.
Centre back Baihakki said he was also keen to put the Suzuki Cup nightmare behind him.
"It was really disappointing for all of us, players and fans, to get knocked out of the group stages as hosts," he said.
"The players accept the blame and responsibility, but we have to move on, and I'm sure we will be back hungrier.
"I took a break with my family and now I'm back training with JDT, I'm regaining my smile and confidence.
"I'm proud to play for the team and it will be interesting to see if we can compete with the bigger teams in the Premier League and challenge for promotion to the MSL."
- Additional reporting by David Lee