Lions draw positives from defeat
Singapore lose 2-1 to Afghanistan in international friendly but impress in the second half
|Sharif Mukhammad 5, Mustafa Azadzoy 58||Shawal Anuar 47|
Have the Lions woken up just in time for their upcoming Asian Cup qualifying campaign?
Despite the 2-1 defeat by Afghanistan at the Al-Sailiyah Sports Club early this morning (Singapore time), there were positives for Singapore national football coach V Sundramoorthy ahead of their Group E opener against Bahrain next Tuesday.
Forget the first 45 minutes, an anaemic affair with scoring opportunities at a premium for both sides. From the only clear chance of the half, the 156th-ranked Afghans found the opener.
World No. 163 Singapore looked like they had yet to wake up from their Suzuki Cup hangover and their defence failed to deal with a cross from their right, allowing Sharif Mukhammad to lash past Hassan Sunny from the edge of the box after just five minutes.
There was not much to speak of for the Lions' attack early on as wide men Shawal Anuar and Faris Ramli could not find space behind the Afghan defence, while striker Khairul Amri cut an isolated figure up front.
At the back, apart from the opening goal, Singapore's latest centre-back pairing - 19-year-old Irfan Fandi Ahmad and utility man Safuwan Baharudin - generally marshalled the defence well and goalkeeper Hassan Sunny had just one save to make in the second half.
The central midfield unit of Hariss Harun, Izzdin Shafiq and Yasir Hanapi worked hard and got stuck in to assert themselves, without really providing the service Amri needed.
Whatever Sundram told his players at the break clearly worked as the Lions resumed play with their tails up and got the equaliser just two minutes into an action-packed second half.
It was as if they had the blustery winds in their sails as Hariss floated a ball to the left flank where Shawal had switched to following a good tactical move by Sundram.
The 25-year-old Geylang International winger burst clear of the Afghan defence before finishing clinically with the outside of his left boot for his first international goal from only his second cap, giving the 30 Singaporean fans in the crowd something to cheer about.
The Lions were ultimately undone when Amri lost possession in midfield while trying to counterattack in the 58th minute. Kanischka Taher then played the ball through Safuwan's legs and Mustafa Azadzoy provided a thumping finish.
But there was something in the way Singapore threw all they had in search for another leveller that suggests they could end a six-match losing streak against Bahrain next Tuesday.
They forced free-kicks and set-pieces in their opponents' half, from which substitute striker Khairul Nizam and Safuwan headed wide from.
In the final minute, Nizam found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper from an angle, but his stinging shot was too close to Ovays Azizi, who diverted it away from goal.
Post-match, Sundram said: "It's been a while our last international game... we started slow but eventually we got into the game.
"The boys gave everything, we were aggressive and fought for every ball but we were unlucky. We were much better than Afghanistan in the second half and a draw would have been a fairer result.
"We have to move on and more importantly, plan and improve for the match against Bahrain."
AFGHANISTAN: Ovays Azizi, Hassan Amin (Benjamin Nadjem 46), Sharif Mukhammad, Milad Intezar (Modjieb Jamali 46), Abassin Alikhil, Farshad Noor (Amiruddin Sharifi 90), Faysal Shayesteh (Fardin Hakimi 68), Kanischka Taher, Omid Popalzay, Noroallah Amiri (Mustafa Azadzoy 46), Khaibar Amani (Jabar Sharza 60)
SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny 6, Faritz Abdul Hameed 6, Irfan Fandi Ahmad 6.5 (Daniel Bennett 78), Safuwan Baharudin 6.5 , Shakir Hamzah 6.5, Shawal Anuar 6.5 (Safirul Sulaiman 67), Hariss Harun 6.5, Izzdin Shafiq 6 (Mustafic Fahrudin 80), Yasir Hanapi 6 (Anumanthan Mohan Kumar 82), Faris Ramli 5.5 (Juma'at Jantan 46) 6, Khairul Amri 5.5 (Khairul Nizam 63) 6
TNP Man-of-the-Match: Faysal Shayesteh (Afghanistan)
David Lee and Benjamin Seetor's trip is sponsored by Qatar Airways Singapore. Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of 195 aircraft flying to more than 150 business and leisure destinations including Doha and Bahrain. The world's fastest-growing airline will add a number of exciting new destinations, including Dublin, Nice and Skopje, to its network this year.