Fresh off scoring for the national team and claiming a spot in the AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL) Team of the Year for the second time in his career, Lion City Sailors forward Shawal Anuar wants to end off a memorable week with a victory against defending Singapore Cup champions Hougang United on Saturday (25 November) evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The 32-year-old, who netted against Thailand in the group stage of their second-round 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, expressed the team’s target of topping Group B of the Singapore Cup.
Aleksandar Ranković’s men are currently in the driver’s seat to qualify for the semi-finals, with six points from two group matches while Hougang and Tanjong Pagar lie behind with three points apiece.
“It’s been an amazing year for me, all the way from when I got my first start for the Sailors to now scoring goals for both club and country. Getting into the Team of the Year is definitely the best moment till date and I want to go for more,” Shawal said.
“We have to take one match at a time, we’re aiming to win the Singapore Cup so our mindset will be to focus fully on this match.”
He also warned his team against complacency, noting that Hougang can pose a threat to the Sailors’ qualifying hopes. After all, he was part of the team in 2022 which lifted the trophy with the Cheetahs.
“We want to keep the winning momentum in the Cup going, but we’re not going to underestimate our opponents. The ball is round and we just have to play like how we’re used to,” he said.
Teammate Lionel Tan, who was also part of Hougang’s Cup winning squad in 2022, echoed Shawal’s sentiments.
“It doesn’t matter that it’s my former team, because you want to win every single game in football,” the 26-year-old centre-back said.
“Knowing this team, I know they certainly want to qualify for the semi-finals too. We’re expecting a difficult game, but we’re ready to face them.”
With 10 players returning from international duty after defeats against South Korea and Thailand, fatigue could well be a factor. But Lionel and Shawal insist that the team will be fully prepared for Saturday’s clash.
“Physically, it’s all about recovering well for those of us who played in both games. We also need to be mentally strong and quickly switch our attention to club duties, starting with the game on Saturday,” Lionel said.
“It’s all about getting the team back together, we don’t have a lot of time to prepare for this match. This team has worked together for a long time and we know what each of us are supposed to do.”
Although the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) 2023/24 Group F match away to Bangkok United comes just four days (29 November) after the Hougang clash, Lionel is confident that his Sailors are able to adapt to playing games in quick succession.
“In the last couple of months, we’ve been playing several matches. Mentally, we must be ready for every single match and cope with the pressure that comes with it, especially with games coming up so quickly,” he said.
“We’re now one step into the semi-finals, it’s now our job to ensure we get the three points and make it through.”
Meanwhile, Shawal will be looking to continue his goal-scoring streak, having also scored thrice in the Sailors’ previous Singapore Cup 4-1 win over Tanjong Pagar United on 21 October.
“Hat-tricks are never my target, but when I have the opportunities to score I’ll take them and continue my scoring streak,” said Shawal.
“We won’t be taking it this easy this weekend, especially with the ACL match coming up. We want to bring a positive momentum to Bangkok too.”