Trudging off the Bishan Stadium pitch on Wednesday (6 December) night, Maxime Lestienne cut a disappointed figure as he was substituted by Adam Swandi with less than 10 minutes to go in the Lion City Sailors’ 3-0 second-leg victory over Tampines Rovers in the 2023 Singapore Cup semi-finals. 

The result meant the Sailors romped into the final with a convincing 6-3 aggregate victory, but the Belgian – the reigning Singapore Premier League (SPL) Player of the Year (POTY) who raised the bar with league-high tallies of goals and assists – was unhappy with the level of his individual performance.  

“The team played a very good game on Wednesday; everyone played with a lot of determination and focus. Defensively we were top, offensively we created a lot of opportunities and could have scored more. But for myself, I think I should have contributed more,” he said. 

“I missed five to six chances to score and I’m disappointed with myself. But I believe I’m a big player and maybe the goals will come in the final.” 

A hungry and determined Maxime is eager to make his mark in the club’s first-ever Singapore Cup final appearance when they take on holders Hougang United at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday (6 December) night. 

The former PSV Eindhoven attacker has done much since joining the Sailors in February 2022, lighting up the league with goals and assists, landing a number of Player of the Month trophies in addition to the 2023 POTY award. 

What has eluded him thus far is team silverware. 

“We haven’t been able to win something important for the last couple of years and that’s something that is often on my mind. Our supporters have been behind us through the ups and downs, so we want to win the Cup to give them something,” he declared. 

“Hougang is not an easy opponent, but I’m sure if we play like we did against Tampines and give everything on the pitch, we’ll win this game. Every single one of us must show up and show how much this means to us.”

Captain Hariss Harun sang from the same hymn book as he urged his troops to follow up on the accomplished display against the Stags to create history for the club. 

“This is huge for us as we need to win something this year,” admitted the 33-year-old. “This season, we set out to win everything ahead of us – the league (SPL) was a little bit disappointing for us, we pushed as far as we could but weren’t able to win it. For our ACL (Asian Football Confederation Champions League) campaign, it wasn’t too bad but we were ultimately unable to qualify for the Round of 16. 

“This is our last chance to cap the year off with something tangible, so we need to bring our A-game, just like how we controlled the tempo against Tampines. If we can do that in the final, then I’m sure we’ll get the job done.”