Shahfiq sets sights on Suzuki Cup after Palestine brace

Singapore forward Shahfiq Ghani is eyeing a good end to a frustrating year after playing a starring role against Palestine on Sunday.

The dead ball specialist arrowed home two free kicks in Singapore’s 2-1 victory over Palestine in the Singapore's final Asian Games group encounter, as the team exited the tournament with their heads held high.

Shahfiq has struggled for goals all season at club level with LionsXII, but finally came good at the Ansan Wa Stadium yesterday in one of his best performances this season.

Speaking to FourFourTwo after the game, the 22-year-old expressed his relief at seeing all his hard work come to fruition. 

“It’s like it paid off finally,” he said.

“I really didn’t expect this. I’ve been doing this in training and it’s just that the ball really went to where I want to go tonight.

“It feels really good to score two in one game, after all everyone know it’s not been a good year for me.  Now I hope it will end well.”

The two Singapore goals showed what a threat Shahfiq can be at set pieces – curling the ball up and over the defensive wall to the keeper’s left for the first, before swerving it around to the keeper’s right for the second.

However, Shahfiq's picture perfect second goal might not even have come to past if his teammate Sahil Suhaimi had gotten his way.

“Actually Sahil wanted to take that free kick,” Shahfiq revealed.

“But I told him let me do it because I feel I can still put in one more since it’s nearer to the goal.

“I simply placed the ball to the keeper’s right and luckily he didn’t anticipate the ball.”

Despite a late goal from the Palestinians, the Singaporeans hung on for a valuable victory which could have put them into the last 16, if the game against Oman and Tajikistan had ended goalless.

However news soon filtered through that Tajikistan had scored deep into injury time which meant they would take the second spot in Group C instead.

It was a cruel ending for Singapore as Shahfiq reflected on his side’s overall showing.

“It’s definitely bittersweet to have scored and won the game but still go out,” he said.

“When we heard the news from the other side after the final whistle, the joy we had immediately changed to disappointment. You can see everyone’s faces changing afterwards. 

“It’s really unlucky for us but if you ask me, I really thought that the boys gave their all and put on a really good show.

“We managed to get a draw and a win after the opening-day loss and this is a good platform for us to build on and achieve success in the future.”

Brushing disappointment aside, Shahfiq then turned his attentions to the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup as he looks to maintain his upturn in form.

“The Asian Games has really helped me to judge where’s my match fitness is,” he said.

“I guess I’m coping quite well and I just need to work extra hard in training, especially in having more composure to score in open play.

“I feel more confident right now and I will try to do more of the same at the Suzuki Cup.”

The Singapore Under-23 team is likely to fly back home from Incheon, Korea on Tuesday morning.

Photo: Zee Ko/FourFourTwo