Next goal for Faris & Sahil - SEA Games success

The hopes of the nation are on the young shoulders of two key players as they look to end Singapore's 56-year gold drought in football at next month's SEA Games.

But in 90 minutes last night at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi foreshadowed the future, put aside the past and shaped the present with an iconic victory for Singapore football.

They scored the three goals - Sahil netting two - that beat Kelantan 3-1, helping the LionsXII to become the first foreign club to win the Malaysian FA Cup in its 26-year history.

The duo will return to the Under-23 team to compete in the SEA Games, starting off with the June 1 battle against the Philippines.

Coach Fandi Ahmad said: "I hope they carry this form into the SEA Games. The (Cup) win is a big boost for the Games and I believe we have a very good chance."

Faris and Sahil almost missed the latter stages of the tournament, owing to their pre-Games commitments with the Young Lions. But after discussions between Fandi and Under-23 tactician Aide Iskandar, it was decided that both attackers, as well as winger Christopher van Huizen, would play in the first leg of the semi-final clash against Terengganu, and eventually in last night's final as well.

Despite having joined the LionsXII for preparation after returning from centralised training in Japan a mere five days before the final, Faris and Sahil were both spirited in their contributions, showing plenty of desire last night.

Faris finished off Izzdin Shafiq's brilliant weighted through ball in the seventh minute, while Sahil took advantage of slack defending from Kelantan to run at the defence from inside his own half to finish, beating two defenders with aplomb in the 81st minute.

A stoppage-time penalty from Sahil then sealed the outcome for the LionsXII.

Substitute Sahil's brace last night meant that the 22-year-old finished as the LionsXII's joint top scorer in the FA Cup alongside Khairul Amri. Both strikers ended the tournament with five goals.

The opening goal by Faris last night was his second in the competition after he had netted in the first leg of the semi-final against Terengganu.

While the pressure of delivering at the Games will be unrelenting, the victory last night will have given both Faris and Sahil a crucial taste of what it takes to defy predictions and win a major game in front of a fervent crowd.

The hope is that their inspired form last night will carry over to the SEA Games, enabling Singapore to end the long drought.