Irfan rescues Young Lions against Harimau Muda
COURTS YOUNG LIONS 1
(Irfan Fandi Ahmad 88)
HARIMAU MUDA 1
(Syahrul Azwari 2)
It was a scrappy effort, and he will almost certainly score many better goals, but Irfan Fandi Ahmad will remember last night's poacher's effort for a long time.
After all, his 88th-minute equaliser against Harimau Muda at the Jalan Besar Stadium was the Courts Young Lions striker's first professional goal in six appearances in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League.
Coming on as a 60th-minute substitute for Shahfiq Ghani, Irfan pounced after Taufik Suparno's cross from the right wing was flicked on by Fadli Kamis.
Speaking to The New Paper after the game, the 18-year-old said: "It always feels good to score and it makes it a bit special to get one against our traditional rivals in a Causeway Derby.
"After coming on, I was just trying my best to do something for the team to get us back into the game."
Irfan's goal was the first and only Young Lions shot on target in a highly charged and fast-paced game that both teams wanted to win.
Syahrul Azwari stunned the hosts when he lashed in from the edge of the area within 70 seconds of the kick-off after the Young Lions failed to clear a long throw.
The Young Tigers proceeded to defend stoutly for the remainder of the match, with Akhir Bahari and Adam Nor standing out in midfield.
They managed the feat until Irfan intervened.
But Young Lions coach Juergen Raab conceded that his team did not play well.
"They couldn't handle the pressure, knowing that it's in our hands and feet to move up to seventh if we had won," he said.
"We were all motivated, but the shock from conceding so early doubled the pressure. We tried to find a solution but we could not manage it.
"We have to learn from this.
"You could see it was not our style as we made so many mistakes.
"But our players did not give up and tried to win until the very end."
The German paid tribute to Irfan, saying: "He has an unbelievable body (1.88m tall) for a Singaporean, and if he continues working on his skills, I'm sure he will be important for the teams he plays for.
"He is strong in headers, but we have to learn not just to play long balls to him. We want to be flexible in our style of play."
Irfan revealed that he is unlikely to head to Chile and sign for Universidad Catolica as he will most likely enlist and complete National Service before pursuing a professional football career overseas.
"I just returned from calf surgery in July and started playing competitively only this month," he said.
"I still feel I'm lacking in terms of fitness and agility, and I hope to get back to full fitness and play more games.
"I have been training with this team since the start of the year and I feel comfortable with them.
"It's been a long while since I scored, so this is a boost for me and I'm definitely looking forward to scoring more goals in our remaining matches."
COURTS YOUNG LIONS: Syazwan Buhari, Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Amirul Adli, Safirul Sulaiman, Sherif El-Masri, M Anumanthan, Afiq Mat Noor (Amy Recha 68), Jordan Webb, Shahfiq Ghani (Irfan Fandi Ahmad 60), Taufik Suparno
HARIMAU MUDA: Ilham Amirullah, Azrul Nizam Muhd (Ashmawi Yakin 86), Kenny Pallraj, Annas Rahmat, Ariff Farhan, Akhir Bahari, Adam Nor, Irfan Zakaria, Syahrul Azwari (Arif Anwar 69), Kumaahran Sathasivam, Faizat Ghazali.
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: AKHIR BAHARI (Harimau Muda)