SINGAPORE - His team were crying out for a saviour in Oslo, Norway, on Sunday night (May 12) and Ikhsan Fandi delivered.
With one minute left and the game against Skeid tied at 2-2, five Raufoss IL players surged into the opponents’ penalty box when Mikkel Maigaard whipped in a hopeful cross from the right.
Ikhsan had his back to goal but was first to react to meet the cross, improvising with an overhead kick to send the ball into the bottom corner for dramatic winner and his first competitive goal for Raufoss.
The 20-year-old had replaced Ryan Doghman in the 75th minute when his team were 2-1 down, and made his cameo count.
He told The Straits Times: “I’m shocked because I never expected my first competitive goal to come from a bicycle kick. It feels even more amazing when it’s the match-winner. This may be just one goal, but this is not just for me.
“It’s for my family and all the people in Singapore supporting me. I will keep working hard to earn more playing time and try to score more goals.”
The 3-2 away win extended Raufoss’ unbeaten league run to four games, and propelled the second-tier Norwegian side to fourth place on 13 points after seven games.
They trail Aalesund (16 points), Sandefjord (15) and Start (13 and better goal difference) in the 16-team 1. Division. The top two teams earn automatic promotion while third to sixth enter the play-off for the last slot.
Raufoss coach Christian Johnsen said: “It was about time, regardless of the result, to let him play. Today, he was really good when he came in.
“He has many of the qualities – speed and physicality – and he is also a nice and humble lad who works hard, so we know he has great potential.
“However, in football, it is all about being in shape, and he’s starting to get there now.”
While Ikhsan had scored for Raufoss in pre-season friendlies, his acrobatic winner was his first goal in a competitive fixture.
It is the first time in 30 years a Singaporean has scored a senior goal for a professional European football club since V. Sundram Moorthy netted the last of his three goals for Swiss side FC Basel in 1989.
Ikhsan’s father, Fandi Ahmad, was the only other Singaporean to accomplish the feat with 11 league goals for Dutch team Groningen from 1983 to 1985.
Remarkably, Ikhsan’s goal comes after just 92 minutes of league action. Even though he has played in the last six league matches, they were all substitute appearances.
Fandi told The Straits Times: "I'm happy for him. He has been wanting to show what he can do, and he injected life into his team when they were down.
"I told him the coach (Christian Johnsen) has faith in him, and that's why he has been getting playing time. Even though it is not easy coming on late in the game - if they are winning, has has to do more pressing and defending - he must be patient because he will get his chance.
"Overall, we have been getting positive feedback. In a new environment, he has adapted well. He just needs to be confident because he can do better. It is good for him to learn like this, and he must not underestimate his own talent."
Ikhsan's older brother Irfan, 21, is also flourishing with Thai League 2 side BG Pathum United.
With 31 points from 12 games, BG Pathum are top of the table and on track for a swift return to the top tier.
And the Singapore international defender has played his part with six clean sheets, three goals and two Man-of-the-Match awards.
Irfan said: "T2 is not a league to be looked down upon because it is physically very tough and players also have to be mentally strong.
"It has been a good experience playing alongside very experienced and talented footballers.
"Being only 21 and entrusted with a key role, I feel I have a huge responsibility in defence, but we have worked well as a team to get to where we are at the moment.
"We have had to play one league and one cup game in a week recently, so it can take its toll and proper recovery is very important. I hope my team stay healthy and fit so we can fight for promotion and silverware."
Fandi said: "Irfan is doing very well in Thailand and their technical director Surachai Jaturapattarapong is very happy with how he is commanding their defence.
"Like I have been saying, I hope more of our footballers venture overseas and improve from playing in a strong league because that can only be good for the national team."