Ikhsan Fandi stars in Lion City Cup thriller
With Singapore trailing 3-0 to the young Kop side at half-time, Ikhsan took the game by the scruff of the neck in an inspirational display reminiscent of his father, who regularly used to lift his home crowds during his playing days.
The 16-year-old striker scored three goals in an incredible 10-minute spell, first with his left foot, then with his right and then finally a header – completing the perfect hat-trick.
The home side was full of running, but couldn’t muster one last goal as the match headed to penalties, which Liverpool eventually won 5-3 to move into Sunday’s final.
But the result mattered little as Ikhsan, who has been studying and training alongside his older brother Irfan in Chile, underlined his undeniable potential.
Ikhsan told FourFourTwo earlier this week of his desire to eventually make it to Europe and more displays like this could well set him on his way.
Afterwards, Ikhsan was asked if performances like Friday night could help him slowly emerge from his father's considerable shadow.
"Yes, but it's only just the beginning," he said. "It's only going to get harder and harder, but I have to stay humble and carry on scoring goals."
The track record for the competition – which has returned after a one-year hiatus – also appears set to continue. Local legends Fandi and V Sundramoorthy both used the Lion City Cup as a stepping stone early in their career.
While Singapore under-16 coach Robin Chitrakar acknowledged Ikhsan's contribution, he was keen to give credit to his entire team for their impressive display.
"He tried his best and the whole team did their best," Chitrakar said. "It's the whole team – that's important, the whole team helped him and he helped them."
Liverpool will now meet the Tottenham under-15 side in Sunday's final after the Spurs eased to a 3-0 victory over the Singaporean under-15 outfit earlier in the night, while the two Singaporean sides will meet in the third-place play-off.
Singapore actually could have opened the scoring just the seventh minute of the night's first game when Jacob Mahler’s perfectly weighted pass put Glenn Kweh into space, but his attempted lob just sailed over the crossbar.
From there the visitors largely dominated, with winger Matthew Lock and midfielder and man-of-the-match Nya Kirby pulling the strings.
Lock opened the scoring in the 12th minute, skipping past Singapore defender Jordan Vestering with a lovely piece of skill before burying the chance into the left corner.
Lock then doubled the London side’s advantage 20 minutes later when a ricocheted ball fell to the winger, who somehow managed to find the back of the net while laying on the ground.
Centre back Reo Griffiths then completed the scoring on the stroke of half-time.
Similar to Ikhsan, Kirby showed tremendous composure with the ball and demonstrated he could also be a player to watch in the future.
“(Kirby’s) first-half performance was very eye-catching,” Spurs academy coach John McDermott said. “Nya is a good player and I was really pleased with his performance against the Singapore midfield, who gave us a good challenge."
The final and third-place play-off will be back at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday.
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo