National Team - Lions ● Oct 18, 2018

Jacob Mahler: ‘Unreal’ to score in same match with Ikhsan

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SINGAPORE, 18 OCTOBER 2018 – They are almost inseparable while on National Team duty, rooming together, sitting beside each other at meals and sharing AirPods.

So perhaps it was fate that Jacob Mahler’s first international goal would come in a match where Ikhsan Fandi also scored, as it did in the Lions’ stirring comeback win over Cambodia on Tuesday night.

Mahler’s 61st-minute equaliser was followed by Ikhsan’s winning goal in the 75th minute, which sealed a 2-1 win at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium and a third consecutive win for Singapore.

It was only Mahler’s second international appearance and as well as being pleased with the goal, he also expressed delight at Ikhsan’s third Singapore goal, with the striker having gone close on a couple of occasions.

“Funnily, I actually joked with Ikhsan before the game saying that both of us would score and that actually happened, so that was an unreal feeling!” he told the FAS website. “I am happy for Ikhsan as well as he worked really hard and deserved the goal.

“It was an amazing feeling to get my first senior goal. Surreal, really! I’m just really grateful to all my team-mates and coaches for the help and Coach Fandi (Ahmad) for giving me the chance.”

Mahler, who made his debut against Fiji last month, admitted there was an element of luck in the goal, which came after Zulfahmi Arifin’s free-kick wreaked havoc in the six-yard area.

“I didn’t actually expect the ball to end up near me but when I saw the ball went past a few of their defenders, I knew I had a chance,” the Young Lions midfielder said. “I actually mis-kicked the ball but thankfully, it went in. A goal is a goal, right!”

The half-time substitute, who had replaced Ho Wai Loon, added: “I didn’t really expect to come on that soon but when I was given the chance by Coach, I made sure I grabbed it and tried to do my best. Coach Fandi just wanted me to be strong in the midfield and be confident and do my best.”

With Ikhsan only a year older at 19, that meant it was the first time two players below 20 years old had scored for Singapore in the same international match over the past decade at least.

It also ended the Lions’ 12-game streak without an away win – the last came in June 2016 in a 1-0 win against Myanmar – and was also the first time we have won three consecutive internationals since June 2015.

While it was a morale-boosting victory, Fandi pointed out after the game that there is still plenty of room for improvement ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup opener against Indonesia on 9 November and Mahler concurred.

“I felt the team performed decently,” he said. “There are still places where we can improve and we will work on that in training.”