Raihan out to repay Fandi's faith
The combative LionsXII midfielder said that he was willing to put in the hard yards in training to keep his spot in the team, now that captain Isa Halim has returned to full fitness
Against Sarawak FA on Saturday evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the former Courts Young Lions player put in a great shift in front of his back four, covering for both full-backs whenever they overlapped.
Raihan's performance drew praise from LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad at the post-match press conference after the 0-0 result, although he did concede that the midfielder had to work harder on the offensive side of his game.
“I’m very pleased in terms of his defensive duties because his job is to cover in the centre," Fandi said.
“However, I think he needs to play a bit more simple at times because while he’s been intercepting the balls, he’s been losing it with too many wayward balls forward.
“Had he played more diagonal or simple passes he would have been the best player today.
“But so far, in terms of defending and covering for others he’s the best – be it at sliding, tackling, or playing with passion.
"His discipline is there so he’s very good at defending."
Raihan seemed delighted to still be in the team despite Isa’s recovery, as he told FourFourTwo after the game that it meant that his performances were getting noticed.
“I’ve been sitting on the bench for the last two years and I had to go Courts Young Lions (in 2013) just to get a chance to play," he said
“But coach Fandi trusted me in that position despite Isa Halim’s return and that serves as a motivation for me to work harder.
"Not a lot of people trusted me because some clubs want their defensive midfielder to be big and strong physically.
“Since Fandi put me in the position I have to prove myself and not slack.
"If I slack coach Fandi can just put Isa back in the team anytime.
“It’s a good thing that coach pointed out that I’m not doing well attacking-wise with the passes, so maybe during training I can work on that side of my game.”
The 23-year-old's performances have also impressed national selectors, culminating in his selection for the Singapore National Under-23 team that played France U-21 in a friendly two weeks ago.
However, he is only focused on the LionsXII for now rather than making the National Team Squad for the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“If I can get selected for the Suzuki Cup it will be a blessing for me but for now I have to concentrate for my club to help them as much as possible with regards to the Malaysia Cup.”