With captain Shahril Ishak out for the remainder of the Malaysia Cup, the responsibility fell on his deputy, Hariss Harun, to lead the LionsXII to their first victory in the competition.
Instead of caving in to the pressure, Hariss stepped up to the plate and fulfilled his end of the bargain by heading home the opener, before a late Safuwan Baharudin strike gave the Singapore side the triumph against Perak FA on Saturday.
“It’s a boost for us to get the three points,” Hariss told Goal Singapore after the game.
“It wasn’t easy for us in the first half and we had to dig deep. In the second half we came out more spirited and with more desire and passion, and I think it paid off.”
After a tense opening half where both sides could not find the breakthrough, the LionsXII drew first blood in the 60th minute after half-time substitute Zulfahmi Arifin put in a pin-point cross for Hariss to glance the ball into the far corner.
However, the lead lasted for only three minutes as Perak left back Noor Hazrul released an unstoppable 25-yard freekick to draw his team level.
But the LionsXII kept pushing for the winning goal and finally got their reward when Safuwan, pushed upfront in the final few minutes in search of a winner, controlled Izwan Mahbud’s long drop kick, fended off two defenders and lobbed the goalkeeper to send the crowd into a frenzy.
While Hariss was pleased to get on the scoresheet, he was equally buoyed by the centreback’s finish.
“I think it was a great build up (to the goal),” Hariss said.
“It was a good kick by Izwan, and Safuwan had a great touch and finish. He’s got great ability and potential and I’m quite happy that he got his goal.”
Most importantly, though, it was the three points that satisfied Hariss and his teammates the most.
“I think it bodes well for us to actually score goals and to get the three points,” Hariss explained.
“But now we have to regroup and look forward to the next game. We have to take one game at a time and go for a win again.”