National Team - Lions ● Mar 26, 2022
Ikhsan Fandi double fires Lions to Causeway derby victory
Ikhsan Fandi (no. 9) celebrates after scoring against Malaysia, 26 March 2022
SINGAPORE, 26 MARCH 2022 – Surrounded by three Malaysian defenders, there seemed to be nothing on for Ikhsan Fandi when he received the ball just outside the penalty area on the left side with 14 minutes left.
A quick shimmy and a precise low drive into the bottom left corner later, the 22-year-old had made it 2-1 and had the majority of the 14,896 spectators on their feet inside the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub.
The moment of magic proved decisive as the Lions held on to defeat their bitter Causeway rivals in a superb derby clash on Saturday night in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Tri-Nations Series 2022.
“Scoring goals is my job but today is extra special because it is a derby match,” Ikhsan declared after the match. “We want to win and we showed it today with our passion on the field. The most important thing tonight is the win.”
The BG Pathum United star had scored the team’s first goal too, bamboozling his marker with a smart run before sliding in to finish off Song Uiyoung’s low cross from the left in the 30th minute. That opening goal had come from a lightning-quick transition – Irfan Fandi’s defensive header was met by Shahdan Sulaiman, whose ball forward was touched on by debutant Taufik Suparno near the halfway line to Ikhsan, who then played Song in on the left. The midfielder surged 35 yards before calmly picking out the number nine in the middle.
Of course, the Tigers made life difficult and would feel that they should have broken the deadlock first. Safiq Rahim flashed a good chance wide within the opening minute and Safawi Rasid did likewise five minutes later, before Hassan Sunny then dealt with Safiq’s fierce strike and tipped over Safawi’s free-kick.
Safawi then crashed a penalty off the bar on 48 minutes but the reprieve was short-lived as Liridon Krasniqi, released by the impressive Akhyar Rashid, slid his finish beyond Hassan to equalise on 57 minutes.
Hassan Sunny claims a ball, 26 March 2022
Buoyed, the Malaysians pushed for the lead but found Hassan in the way as he repelled Safawi’s drilled effort and tipped over Dion Cools’ free-kick.
Then came the piece of inspiration from Ikhsan, who collected Nazrul Nazari’s short pass before going on to score his 13th goal in 26 international appearances. That sealed a first home win against Malaysia since a 5-3 triumph in World Cup qualifying in July 2011 and two consecutive Causeway Derby victories for the first time since June 2005.
The victory delighted Nazri Nasir, who now has two wins in as many matches against the Tigers – the first during his interim spell in the AIRMARINE Cup 2019.
“Of course I am very satisfied with the performance,” beamed the Singapore legend, back for a second interim stint for this Tri-Nations Series. “They fought very hard and came back strongly (after conceding), they did not give up; every player I put in gave 100 per cent, without a doubt. As a coach, I am so proud of them.
“As I said (before the match), I trust the players and I know they will not let me down, they will fight. They (Malaysia) are fast, press high and created a lot of chances (against the Philippines in their first match) but I told my players, like Hassan, Shahdan (Sulaiman), Zulfahmi (Arifin), that they are experienced and how we can frustrate them is to keep the ball and not have to rush.
“Playing against Malaysia is always special, be it as interim coach or player. I just want to enjoy the moment… it is so special to play at our home in front of our home fans.”
Hariss Harun fends off Malaysia’s Liridon Krasniqi, 26 March 2022
Nazri also praised Tampines Rovers attacker Taufik, who never let the opposing defenders have a moment’s rest on his maiden Singapore appearance. Playmaker Shahdan earned a milestone 75th cap, while Christopher van Huizen’s came on for his fifth cap and first international appearance since March 2016.
There was a nice family moment late on as well when Ilhan Fandi came on to notch his second cap and shared the pitch with elder brothers Irfan and Ikhsan at the same time. “As soon as I saw Ilhan come in, I was very excited and I was trying to get him a goal! This moment has been a long time coming, we have talked about it since we were boys and I hope my Mum and Dad watching at home are proud.”
The Lions will next face the Philippines in their second and final fixture of the Tri-Nations Series on Tuesday, 29 March.
Singapore: Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun (C), Safuwan Baharudin, Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Christopher van Huizen 79’), Shahdan Sulaiman, Zulfahmi Arifin (Hami Syahin 79’), Nazrul Nazari, Song Uiyoung (Shawal Anuar 88’), Ikhsan Fandi, Taufik Suparno (Ilhan Fandi 71’).
Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud, Zaiful Nizam, Syazwan Buhari, Amirul Adli, Hafiz Nor, Amy Recha, Adam Swandi, Shah Shahiran.