National Team - Lions ● Nov 22, 2018

Change in approach reaps double joy for Ikhsan


SINGAPORE, 22 NOVEMBER 2018 – He had toiled hard but fruitlessly in the first two games of the Lions’ ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign.


But a mindset tweak ahead of their third Group B match against Timor-Leste last night paid off for Ikhsan Fandi at the National Stadium as he broke his tournament duck and netted twice in the 6-1 rout.


It took the 19-year-old’s tally to six goals in 11 international appearances, with all the goals coming this year, and the Young Lions star revealed that unburdening himself of the need to score helped him express himself.


“I prepared myself differently for the game… (by) thinking ‘just play well and try and support the team as much (as I can)’, then the goals will come,” he said at the mixed zone.


“Because I felt that in the first two games, I put (too much) pressure on myself saying ‘I need to score, I need to score’ but I didn’t score, so this time I changed it a little bit.


“It felt really good (to score); like (Khairul) Amri said (before), after the first goal, more will start to come… I felt like I could have scored a hat-trick (though)!”


Ikhsan’s first in the 31st minute showcased his predatory instincts as he reacted quickest to prod in the loose ball from five yards after Zulfahmi Arifin’s free-kick caused confusion in the box.


His second came 22 minutes later and was a glorious strike that lit up the Kallang sky. Eyeing Safuwan Baharudin’s header back across goal from the right, Ikhsan manoeuvred into the perfect position to execute a brilliant overhead kick that sent the ball into the bottom left corner.


“I actually tried it before in training or other matches but this is the first time I actually scored (it) in a real game and in an important one too,” he said. “I was kind of shocked – the video (replay) will be funny (because) my face is hilarious!”

That goal, which made it 4-1 to the Lions, was Singapore’s 100th goal in Suzuki Cup history and Ikhsan being the one to score it meant it came full circle for the Fandi family – head coach and father Fandi had scored the country’s first 22 years ago in the 1996 edition.


“Before the game… Eric (Ong, team manager) asked who scored the first and they said (it was) my father,” Ikhsan said. “Then, he said we will score the 100th today… (but) I didn’t realise it (at that time), I wasn’t thinking about the 100th!”


Fandi said at the post-match press conference: “A hundred goals is fantastic and I am happy for Ikhsan, he’s broken his duck… I think he is a bit relieved and I hope he can continue (to get better) from here.”


Ikhsan’s brace was also the Singapore’s 10th in the tournament’s history and he is the seventh different Lions player to score a double in a Suzuki Cup match. The feat also likely meant that it was the first time that a father-son duo has scored in Suzuki Cup history.


Victory against group leaders Thailand in the final group game away in Bangkok this Sunday will seal progress to the semi-finals and Ikhsan hopes the same approach will serve the team well again.


“I don’t think (there is extra pressure on me to score),” he said. “I think we’re going to just work as a team; if we play as team the result will come, the goals will come.


“In football, anything is possible and I think we just need to stay compact and we can get a good result.”