Lions lose 4-0 to Palestine on resumption of World Cup qualifiers
|(Tamer Seyam 20-pen, 30-pen, Oday Dabbagh 23, Yaser Hamad 85)|
The Covid-19 pandemic forced the Lions to wait 18 months for international football to resume, but it took just 18 minutes for their return to start going horribly wrong as they were outclassed 4-0 by Palestine on Friday morning (June 4, Singapore time).
It was the biggest defeat since coach Tatsuma Yoshida took over in May 2019 and the Lions’ heaviest competitive loss since another 4-0 reverse by Syria in November 2013.
The Japanese tactician conceded it was the “worst performance” of his tenure and it left his side with a “nearly zero” per cent chance of finishing second in the group.
The second-placed team has a chance of joining the eight group winners in the next round of Asia’s World Cup qualifiers, which also comes with a spot at the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
But just 18 minutes into their World Cup Group D qualifier at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Singapore conceded the first of two penalties.
Madhu Mohana brought down the Lions of Canaan’s danger man Oday Dabbagh, 22, with a clumsy challenge inside the box, prompting referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassan to point to the spot.
The ref repeated that action on 30 minutes when Madhu’s centre-back partner Irfan Fandi handled a cross into the area.
On both occasions, Tamer Seyam sent his spot-kick to the left of Izwan Mahbud’s goal and into the net, although the custodian was unlucky not to keep out the first attempt, having managed to get a hand to it.
Sandwiched between Seyam’s strikes was another goal in the 23rd minute.
A cross from the left was flicked on by Irfan into the path of Dabbagh, the Kuwaiti Premier League’s top scorer this season, whose shot squirmed under Izwan and into the net.
Izwan, who struggled for playing time at Samut Prakan City this season having not featured in Thai League 1 since last November, looked jittery at times.
In the ninth minute, he dallied on a back-pass by stand-in captain Yasir Hanapi, allowing Dabbagh to close him down, but thankfully the ball spun away from the attacker.
Nineteen minutes into the second half, the 30-year-old spilled a routine cross from Mohammed Khalil, but then recovered to palm it out on the goal line.
Said Yoshida: “He played better than my expectations. He couldn’t play for a long time but he’s our goalkeeper. I’m not disappointed in his performance.”
Izwan’s teammates did not fare much better, failing to muster a shot on target as the absence of chief striker Ikhsan Fandi, centre-back Safuwan Baharudin (both through injury) and skipper Hariss Harun (personal reasons) was sorely felt.
The trio represent a central spine of Yoshida’s line-up boasting a combined 215 caps. They also scored four of the Lions’ seven goals in qualifying, with Norway-based Ikhsan accounting for three of those strikes.
The Lions could not add to their goals-for column but defender Yaser Hamed added to his tally against them, having also found the net in the Lions of Canaan’s 2-1 defeat at Jalan Besar Stadium in September 2019.
He wrapped up the scoring in the 85th minute, stabbing home a rebound after Izwan saved an Abdallatif Albahdari header from a corner.
YOSHIDA TAKES RESPONSIBILITY
With the comfortable win, Palestine climbed above Singapore into third place on goal difference, although the Lions have a game in hand. Both teams have seven points, with the Lions having played six matches.
Yemen are bottom on five points from five matches. Saudi Arabia top the table with 11 points from five games, with Uzbekistan two points adrift having played the same number of matches.
Said Yoshida: “The boys tried to do something but in the first half, they were a bit nervous. I’m very disappointed, they can do more. We couldn’t show our full potential... I’m very sorry for Singapore fans...
“We have to play under stress, we are professionals. But it is not on them, it’s because of my management. It’s on me.”
Next up for Singapore is Uzbekistan on June 8 and Saudi Arabia on June 12.
PALESTINE: Rami Hamada, Mohammed Khalil, Yaser Hamed, Musab Battat, Abdallatif Albahdari, Mohammed Rashid (Mohamed Darwish 80), Mohammed Yamin (Oday Kharoub 80), Tamer Seyam (Mohamed Darwish 73), Mahmoud Abuwarda (Bader Mousa 80), Layth Kharoub (Khaled Salem 67), Oday Dabbagh
SINGAPORE: Izwan Mahbud, Shakir Hamzah (Hafiz Abu Sujad 86), Nazrul Nazari (Zulqarnaen Suzliman 77), Irfan Fandi, Madhu Mohana, M. Anumanthan, Shahdan Sulaiman, Yasir Hanapi, Hafiz Nor (Saifullah Akbar 65), Gabriel Quak (Baihakki Khaizan 46), Ilhan Fandi (Faris Ramli 46)