Boost for SEA Games as Shahfiq ends drought
Forward ends goal drought and gets much-needed boost ahead of SEA Games
Finally, the goal drought is over.
It has been a tough few months for Shahfiq Ghani.
The 23-year-old striker has been luckless in front of goal all year long, both for the Courts Young Lions in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and for the Lions when on international duty.
His barren spell has seen him reduced to a peripheral role in the senior national team, playing just 32 minutes in cameo appearances against Thailand and Guam.
Just when he needed a boost ahead of the SEA Games football tournament, which starts on May 29, Shahfiq returned to scoring ways yesterday.
He was the hero for the national Under-23 side when he scored two goals in a 3-0 friendly win over Shinzuoka Sangyo University's football team - the last match of the week-long training stint in Gotemba, Japan.
"It's my first two goals of the year, after five long months," a relieved Shahfiq told The New Paper over a phone interview.
"It's a morale-booster, definitely. The feeling of scoring a goal is always phenomenal, and I haven't felt that in a while. So to go out there and score two goals, even though it's just a friendly, it's amazing."
After a goalless first half, the Young Lions finally made the breakthrough in the 49th minute, courtesy of a close finish by defender Shakir Hamzah.
Shahfiq then stepped up three minutes later to rifle home Stanely Ng's pass, before sealing the 3-0 win with a well-taken free-kick.
Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar was pleased with the result, which came just two days after a 2-1 loss to Japanese fourth-tier side Azul Claro Numazu.
"I challenged the boys to prove that they have the heart and desire to represent the country and they responded in a great way," said the 39-year-old Aide.
"I am really happy with their performance today, especially with their intensity. It was far better than our first game. We settled down straightaway and we set the tempo.
"We need to play like this in all our games - with hunger and desire."
NO DECISION MADE
Aide used 20 of the 25 players in his squad yesterday and, despite saying that he and his coaches have a clearer picture of who to include in the final 20-man squad, he said that a decision is yet to be made.
He said: "Despite the win, I have to say that we are still a work-in-progress.
"There are some things that need to be fine-tuned and we hope that the last two friendlies that we will play when we get back to Singapore will provide us with the opportunity to finish our preparations."
Shahfiq is one of five "captains" selected by Aide for the SEA Games, making him a near shoo-in for the final cut.
But he is not taking his place in the team for granted.
"I'm just hitting form now, so I hope that it's not just a purple patch," said Shahfiq. "Of course, I'm more confident now, but you never know what will happen over the next two friendlies, so let's just see how it goes."