Lions restrict Asian champions Qatar to 2-0 win
|(Mohammed Muntari 31, Shahdan Sulaiman 43-og)|
The Lions fell to their third straight defeat in all competitions after a 2-0 loss to Qatar in an international friendly in Doha on Friday morning (Nov 15, Singapore time).
Despite the defeat, Tatsuma Yoshida's charges would have felt like it was a morale booster ahead of their crucial World Cup qualifier against Yemen next Tuesday.
Qatar, after all, are the reigning Asian champions, after winning the continent's most prestigious competition in February.
Ranked 57th in the world, the hosts duly dominated the proceedings as expected but the Lions, 102 places below the hosts, did well to give a good account of themselves and proved they could mix it with the cream of the crop.
There was also a significant moment in defeat with Lions captain Hariss Harun leading the team out against Qatar and in the process, becoming the 13th Lion to win his 100th cap, joining the likes of Malek Awab, Fandi Ahmad, Aide Iskandar and Daniel Bennett in the centurion club.
With Faris Ramli, Hami Syahin and Irfan Fandi involved in the preparation for the SEA Games, Yoshida rang the changes, handing 23-year-old Home United fullback Iqram Rifqi his first cap, while Hazzuwan Halim and Khairul Nizam made their first starts under the Japanese tactician.
The Lions were able to hold firm against the Asian Cup champions for the first 30 minutes before Mohammed Muntari opened the scoring with an excellent first-time finish from close range after being picked out by a cross from Ismaeel Mohammad.
Qatar then doubled their advantage just before half-time when another ball into the box by Ismaeel was inadvertently turned into the Lions net by Shahdan Sulaiman.
Singapore will travel to Bahrain to face their Group D opponents Yemen in the World Cup qualifiers next Tuesday. Both teams played out a 2-2 draw in September at the National Stadium, but Yemen have to host their home game in a neutral venue due to an ongoing civil war.
Last night, Yemen beat Palestine 1-0 while Saudi Arabia defeated Uzbekistan 3-2. The results meant that after four matches played, the Lions sit bottom of the five-team group with four points from four matches.
Yoshida noted: “Almost everything was positive, honestly. We played very well, but… we couldn’t score. We didn’t have many, but we had enough chances.
"Our build-up play was much better than before and the players understood (our concept) well; day by day and game by game, they have improved.
"We have improved (very much) in the past three months. Three months ago, maybe Qatar is too far (in terms of level) but now, it’s not that far. Their level is, of course, still above us, but not as much as before.
“The result doesn’t (really) matter (as it’s a friendly and we played well) but the players cannot get used to losing. We had clear chances and we must score; if we don’t, the opponents will score.”
Singapore: Hassan Sunny, Nazrul Nazari, Baihakki Khaizan (Amirul Adli 45), Safuwan Baharudin, Iqram Rifqi (Zulfahmi Arifin 53), Hariss Harun (C), Shahdan Sulaiman, Yasir Hanapi, Hafiz Nor (Gabriel Quak 80), Hazzuwan Halim (Sahil Suhaimi 63), Khairul Nizam (Ikhsan Fandi 71)