Sundram's Lions crash to Taiwan
In a dead-rubber encounter that lived to its billing, it took a rare moment of magic from Taiwan forward Li Mao to help the hosts beat Singapore 1-0 in an Asian Cup Group E qualifier last night.
Receiving the ball with his back to goal, he backheeled the ball into the path of teammate Chen Po-liang, who duly finished one-on-one against Singapore custodian Hassan Sunny.
Though Taiwan initially dominated possession, there were few goalscoring chances as both sides lacked any real fluency.
In fact, it was Singapore's Shawal Anuar who drew the game's first save, a tame shot from range that goalkeeper Pan Wen-chieh easily held.
Singapore's best chance of the game would come in the 40th minute.
After a well-executed roulette, Izzdin Shafiq's slide-rule pass to Faris Ramli resulted in a deflected cross that fizzed across goal, as neither Yasir Hanapi nor Shawal Anuar could meet it.
Lions coach V Sundram Moorthy was left to rue the Lions' lack of bite after losing to Taiwan a second time. Taiwan had beaten the Lions 2-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium last June.
Sundram told The New Paper in a long-distance phone interview: "We created chances but didn't take them.
"I think Chinese Taipei had fewer chances but they managed to get a goal."
Yet, one positive from the match was the performance of Geylang International centre-back Anders Aplin, who was making his first international start.
Said Sundram: "He did great, I'm quite happy we have another great central defender that puts himself around with no-nonsense tackles."
Meanwhile, the Philippines qualified for their first Asian Cup after coming from behind to defeat Tajikistan 2-1 in a Group F encounter in Manila. - TAY CHECK KING