A Maxime Lestienne-inspired 5-0 rout of Hougang United put Lion City Sailors back on the winning trail in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), and they will be looking to continue in the same vein when they return to Jalan Besar Stadium to face the Young Lions on Saturday (15 April) night. 

Young Lions have a spring in their step after coming from two goals down to hold Brunei DPMM in a gritty 2-2 draw on Tuesday (11 April) and could pose some problems, but Sailors goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad is confident that the Sailors can power home to a sixth victory in eight matches. 

“Of course Young Lions will be brimming with confidence after their last result, but we’re ready for this test. We showed what we can do against Hougang, so our focus is largely on how we can best use our abilities to exploit our opponents’ weaknesses. 

“Hopefully we can get a few goals with the likes of (Abdul) Rasaq (Akeem) and Bernie (Ibini-Isei). Most importantly, we’re out to keep another clean sheet,” said the 26-year-old, who has three shutouts in his last four outings. 

This is shaping up to be one of the finest seasons for the fast-maturing Zharfan who has the joint-second most number of clean sheets in the league this season, along with Tampines Rovers’ Syazwan Buhari. 

Zharfan added six saves to his tally in the Hougang victory, totalling 38 for the season – a league-leading statistic, 12 more than Geylang International’s Hafiz Ahmad. 

A double save to deny Sahil Suhaimi and Gabriel Quak when the Sailors were only 2-0 up was a highlight from that game as he paid tribute to the training and support he has received since joining the club. 

“I can see a huge difference in my game now. Our goalkeeper coaches Kris (Stergulc) and Chua (Lye Heng) have been working tirelessly to help me improve so credit goes to them – I take their instructions seriously and I always view every game as a chance for me to do even better than before. 

“Obviously coming to a club like the Sailors, I know I have to up my game. I’m happy with how it’s going so far but there’s always room for more improvement,” said Zharfan, who has started all seven Sailors’ games in 2023. 

“We’re still very much a work in progress with new and young players in defence. It’s still early days and we will definitely understand each other better and gel even more with more games. I’m already seeing a good partnership forming between Lionel Tan and Súper (Manuel Herrera López) and I’m excited to see what more they can do. 

“It’s definitely a collective effort from front to back. I never doubted my teammates one bit and I trust them to protect my goal – together with me,” said the former Tanjong Pagar United and Young Lions custodian. 

Zharfan’s long-term goal is to be the Singapore national team’s number one in the near future, but he is now firmly focused on pushing the Sailors towards reclaiming the SPL title this season.

“I’m not too upset or disappointed at not being named in the national squad for the recent March friendlies against Macau and Hong Kong, there will always be other opportunities,” he said.

“Obviously I want to be there and make my first Lions appearance one day, but right now I’m just focusing on the Sailors. Our aim is to be SPL champions this season and we’re striving very hard as a team to achieve that.”