Sahil Suhaimi was a bundle of nerves when he was summoned off the bench for his LionsXII debut on Saturday night against PDRM FA - but it took only two minutes to banish them.
Replacing Gabriel Quak just after the hour mark, the 22-year-old made an instant impact by curling a superb 25-yard free-kick into the bottom corner to open his account for his new side.
That extended the hosts’ lead to 5-0 in front of a roaring Jalan Besar crowd in their Malaysia Super League opener, although the visitors went on to reduce the deficit for a final 5-3 scoreline.
The former Courts Young Lions striker reveled in his dream goal-scoring debut after the game, stating that it had an instant calming effect.
“I felt pressured and very nervous in the beginning, but as the game went by [and I] got to score… I could get my confidence back,” he explained after the game.
“I didn’t expect to score tonight, but I'm happy and glad that we got the three points and played as a team; that was the most important thing.”
Sahil, who had won the set-piece, also had fellow forward Khairul Amri to thank for his goal. Both had stood over the ball, but the latter eventually decided to step away for his younger compatriot to hit it.
“We talked to each other [about] who was going to take it [and] I told Amri I was still fresh and I was confident, so I just took it!” he chuckled. “He gave me the chance to [and] I'm glad he did.”
'Sahil can improve'
Unsurprisingly, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad was delighted with Sahil’s display, given that the player had been away with the Singapore Under-23s on their two-week training camp in Turkey.
“I am happy for Sahil,” he said at the post-match press conference. “I didn’t want to start him for tactical reasons because he wasn’t with us for the last two or three weeks, and he doesn’t know the [team’s] style and how to play [with it].
“But I thought he played okay, [although] he can improve more.”
Sahil was also the victim of an unpunished rough challenge that left him in pain on the ground towards the end of the game, but he took it in his stride.
“In this kind of game, you will surely get this kind of tackle, but I am okay with it,” he said.
“For me, it’s hard trying to adapt… but slowly I will adapt to the play and style.”
He is also keen to find the back of the net more often in future and challenge for a starting role.
“Yeah, as in, [this performance will help] to give me more confidence in the future and to work harder, as a team, and to score more goals lah!”