Shakir: LionsXII's resurgence only a matter of time
It seems like such an age ago, almost 10 months to be exact, since the LionsXII met T-Team in the Malaysian Super League.
That was an almost perfect night at Jalan Besar Stadium, as a comprehensive victory over their Malaysian opponents helped the LionsXII maintain their proud unbeaten home record and their position at the top of the league table.
Goals from Shahril Ishak, Shakir Hamzah and Fazrul Nawaz saw the home team leap into a 3-0 lead at halftime, an advantage they never gave up as they were even able to bring on their substitute goalkeeper for a bit of game time near the end.
Sitting alongside Shakir Hamzah at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night, FourFourTwo watched his eyes light up as he recalled the comprehensive 3-0 win at this very ground in May.
"It was my first competitive goal for the club and it's a precious memory for me," the LionsXII full back said.
"We win as a team but that goal was unbelievable; it was a flicked header at the far post."
Shahril's 28th minute corner kick delivery seemed to be heading wide that evening, but up popped Shakir to arrow a header into the top corner of the T-Team goal and spark enthusiastic celebrations.
"I didn't know that I could score from a corner kick; Everyone usually expects Safuwan [Baharudin] or Baihakki [Khaizan] to score," Shakir said.
"But I proved that I can definitely do something from set pieces."
It's a very different situation this season, with Shahril, Baihakki and Hariss Harun moving on and the LionsXII stumbling under new coach Fandi Ahmad.
Jalan Besar has been breached not once, but twice (Pahang in the FA Cup and Kelantan in the league) this year.
"We just need to string a few wins together to get our confidence back," Shakir said.
"We've lost three games but we've won the last two and that definitely brings the team's morale up."
Indeed, the defending champions have now notched back-to-back wins for the first time this season and are looking for their third victory in a row against T-Team.
"The coach is happy with our performances. We've been proving that we can do it, it's just a matter of time."