Like father, like 'san
Ikhsan scores Lions' 100th goal in Suzuki Cup, following dad Fandi's maiden strike in 1996, as Singapore cling on to semi-final hopes
The Lions met interim national coach Fandi Ahmad's target of scoring at least four times, beating Timor-Leste 6-1 at the National Stadium last night.
In truth, it could have been more, with Singapore registering 14 shots on target and missing a glut of second-half chances.
|(Safuwan Baharudin 12, 19, 90+2, Ikhsan Fandi 30, 42, Faris Ramli 90)||(Rufino Gama 13)|
The Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup Group B win was the first time the Lions had scored at least four goals in a match since they beat Cambodia 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Phnom Penh in June 2015.
It was also their biggest victory since the 11-0 Suzuki Cup thrashing of Laos at the National Stadium in January 2007.
There was more history in the making as Ikhsan Fandi scored the Lions' 100th Suzuki Cup goal with a spectacular bicycle kick in the 42nd minute, 22 years after his father scored Singapore's first goal in the competition in 1996.
Fandi wasn't aware of that statistic, but he did share that during their down time before the match, the team were quizzed about who had scored the Lions' first Suzuki Cup goal and only Khairul Amri got the answer right.
Said the 56-year-old: "A hundred goals in the Suzuki Cup is fantastic. For Ikhsan, he's broken his duck after struggling a bit in the first two games where teams knew him and always closed him down.
"It's a relief and I hope he can continue on from there."
While Ikhsan, 19, scored the most spectacular goal of the night in front of 18,408 fans at the National Stadium, it was Safuwan who finished the game with the match ball.
The 27-year-old defender scored the Lions' first two goals via a header from a corner and a rebound from a saved free-kick in the 12th and 19th minutes respectively. He wrapped up his hat-trick in the second minute of injury-time with a header from a Hariss Harun cross.
That was the only Lions goal that did not originate from a set-piece, with Ikhsan's double in the 30th and 42nd minutes and Faris Ramli's 90th-minute goal all coming via the dead ball.
The match's only other non-set-piece goal was Timor-Leste's equaliser just a minute after Safuwan's opener, when Rufino Gama scored a tap-in after the Timorese opened up Lions' defence.
Said Safuwan: "Coach emphasised a lot on set-pieces...
"Every single day during training, we would end up with 20 minutes of attacking and defending set-pieces...
"We created so many chances, we scored six but we could have got more from set-pieces."
While the Lions met Fandi's target, last night's other match did not turn out favourably for Singapore as a Philippines equaliser nine minutes from time denied Thailand a win in Bacolod.
Had the War Elephants held out for a victory, the Lions would go into their final match in Bangkok on Sunday against a Thai side who had already booked their semi-final spot.
Now, they will have to beat Thailand to ensure they qualify, although a draw and an Indonesia win over the Azkals will also see the Lions progress.
Fandi, however, remains positive that his side can seal a last-four spot in the biennial competition for the first time since 2012.
He said: "This is what we wanted, the three points and a good goal margin, but at the end of the day, the last game will decide our fate.
"We believe in the team, I think we can progress.
"The Thais are always the favourites, we'll be underdogs again, but we will try to surprise them in their own backyard.
"Even if we drew with the Philippines, we still have to fight till the end...
"We don't want to depend on Indonesia, because I think they are already out.
"We hope they will do their best, but we won't depend on anybody but ourselves... We have to go out and fight for our lives."
SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Irfan Fandi, Safuwan Baharudin, Zulfahmi Arifin, Gabriel Quak (Nazrul Nazari 55), Izzdin Shafiq, Hariss Harun, Shakir Hamzah, Ikhsan Fandi (Iqbal Hussain 90), Khairul Amri (Faris Ramli 65)
TIMOR-LESTE: Raul Aderito, Jose Silva, Nataniel Reis, Nelson Viegas, Rufino Gama, Silveiro Garcia (Henrique Cruz), Gumario Moreira (Ricardo Alves), Adelino Trindade, Paulo Domingos (Osvaldo Belo), Filomeno Junior, Feliciano Goncalves.