Sahil could get his chance again
Striker set to start tomorrow with Fandi's tough words ringing in his ear
He announced himself with two goals in the LionsXII's 3-1 FA Cup final win over Kelantan on May 23.
After spending most of his maiden Malaysian Super League (MSL) season on the bench, striker Sahil Suhaimi must have hoped the brace against the Red Giants marked a turning point.
He was wrong.
He failed to set the South-east Asia (SEA) Games alight, scoring just once in three matches as the Singapore Under-23 team, who had targeted a gold medal on home soil, crashed out in the group stage.
And in the LionsXII's last three MSL matches, Sahil has found himself on the bench, again.
But he could be handed a chance at redemption, co-incidentally against Kelantan, who the LionsXII host in an MSL clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow.
With defender Zulfahmi Arifin struggling with an ankle injury, coach Fandi is mulling a tactical rejig which could see the 23-year-old start on the left wing.
Said Fandi: "I've told him straight many times, he has to work hard for the team, not just himself.
"He cannot just expect the ball to his feet, he goes on a dribble, then tries to shoot."
Despite the strong criticism, Fandi was impressed by Sahil's work rate at the SEA Games.
"I've never seen him work as hard as that," said Fandi.
"He can do it. It's all in the mind."
Sahil is fired up to prove a point.
"I understand where (Fandi) is coming from," said the 1.64m-tall striker.
"I need to run more. I need to get the ball more. That's what the coaches want me to do.
"All I can do is try my hardest in every training session to improve my game."
The youngster was on fire last season when he starred for the Courts Young Lions in the S.League, banging in 10 goals, a number of them crowd-pleasing efforts.
Sahil, who already owns seven international caps, added: "The SEA Games just wasn't my tournament.
"I tried all I could not to put pressure on myself, I prepared for the tournament the same way I prepared for the FA Cup final.
"If I get the chance to start against Kelantan, I'll try to give my 110 per cent again.
"If things turn out well for me, then great. If not, I'll just look forward to the next match."
Fandi is hopeful his side can claim the three points tomorrow.
While he says Kelantan's foreign imports, including star striker Gilmar, are the ones to watch, he pointed to their shaky midfield and backline as the reasons they are languishing in 10th spot in the 12-team MSL.
"We must make sure we don't sell ourselves (to tackles) too early and end up on the ground," said Fandi, whose side are in seventh place, six points ahead of Kelantan, who have played two games fewer.
"If we stay disciplined and stick to the game plan, I think we can take advantage of their midfield and defence."
Tickets for the LionsXII's next two Malaysian Super League (MSL) matches are on sale.
Fandi Ahmad's men host Kelantan FA tomorrow and, on Wednesday against Pahang FA, both at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Grandstand tickets for each game are priced at $13, while gallery and King George's Stand tickets are up for grabs at $8.
Members will have discounted rates. Gallery and King George's Stand tickets for concession holders are priced at $4.
Bundle purchases for tickets to both matches can also be made at further discounted prices.
Tickets can be purchased from the Global Tickets website (www.globaltickets.sg) and at AXS Stations.