By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Following a year which saw him lead his side to a runners-up finish in the Super League and the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup, as well as star in Singapore's record fourth AFF Suzuki Cup triumph at the end of 2012, Shahril has well and truly established himself as the golden boy of Singaporean football.
But despite his inspirational display in an attacking-midfield role, the focus was for once not solely on him after Faris Ramli, Shahfiq Ghani and Zulfahmi Arifin, who had just one Super League start between them prior to Saturday's game, all put in impressive shifts against Tok Gajah.
Just 13 minutes into his debut, Faris opened the scoring with a follow-up effort from close range after his initial shot had been cleared off the line by Saifulnizam Miswan, before the LIONSXII went on to wrap up all three points thanks to second-half headers from Safuwan Baharudin and Fazrul Nawaz, both of which came about from excellent set-piece deliveries from Shahfiq.
Although he was replaced shortly before the hour mark, Zulfahmi did show positive signs with his confidence on the ball and range of passing, and LIONSXII coach V. Sundramoorthy believes the introduction of the trio in his starting XI was a key factor in his side ending a two-game losing run.
"One of the reasons for the result is possibly because we brought in players like Faris, Zul and Shahfiq Ghani," he said.
"They were linking up very well with Shahril and down the left with Fazrul [Nawaz] and, with the support that Hariss [Harun] provided when he came on, that made the difference.
"They are talented boys who just need some time to get more performances like this under their belt and soon we'll have some players [good enough] for the [Singapore] national team.
"I have faith in them. One game doesn't make a season but there were positive signs."
Although Shahfiq and Zulfahmi have both long been regarded as bright prospects as they made their way through the ranks, first at the National Football Academy and then with Great Eastern-YEO's S.League side Courts Young Lions, many believe Faris could on to become the biggest star of the future.
And having seen his defence completely taken apart by the 20-year-old, Pahang coach Dollah Salleh has was effusive in his praise of the opposition winger.
"He [Faris] was the best tonight [Saturday]," the legendary Malaysian striker said. "Even in the second half, I kept reminding my players about him.
"I'm also surprised it's the first time he's playing [for the LIONSXII]. He showed something and appeared more experienced than the others.
"He put in a lot of crosses into our box and was their most skilful player."
Dollah must have been left scratching his head for much of the match as his players, who have exceeded all expectations so far this season, failed to match their hosts in all areas of the park.
If that was indeed the case, he would not have been the only puzzled coach by the touchline as Sundramoorthy also expressed his surprise at Pahang's lacklustre display.
"We didn't expect to beat Pahang by three goals and I feel the boys have done a great job," the ex-Singapore international added.
"We knew what Pahang's strengths are - they are very fast with good, technical players. They go out to attack in every game and they score in every game, except today [Saturday].
"They had their chances but they didn't take them."
Apart from the result, which was enough to send the LIONSXII second on the table behind Selangor, one big positive that came out from the game was the return of vice-captain Hariss Harun, who played in his first competitive outing since picking up a serious injury while on international duty with the Lions at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.
"Hariss is an experienced player," Sundramoorthy said after bringing the dynamic midfielder on as a substitute in the 22nd minute, following a knock to Isa Halim.
"He's a player with international experience that adds strength to our defensive game.
"He's excellent at shielding the two centre-backs and is also good at handling aerial balls, and can really make a difference."
The LIONSXII are next in action on Tuesday when they take visit Fandi Ahmad's Darul Takzim in what should be an enthralling encounter.