Lions rue missed chances in 2-2 draw with Yemen
Lions' profligacy in front of goal costs them two points in World Cup qualifying opener against Yemen
Singapore kicked off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-2 stalemate with Yemen at the National Stadium last night.
While new coach Tatsuma Yoshida had signalled a fresh start for the qualifiers, the Lions' first competitive fixture under the Japanese tactician showed the same defensive frailties as in the last two international friendlies in June.
Yoshida's men, ranked world No. 162, were bright in attack, dominating for long periods against their Middle Eastern opponents, who sit 20 rungs above them.
|(Ikhsan Fandi 27, Faris Ramli 51)||(Abdulwasea Al-Matari 34, Mohsen Hasan 45)|
But the positive attacking display was once again let down by haphazard defending.
In three games under Yoshida, the Lions have scored seven goals and conceded the same number.
The 45-year-old was not concerned about his backline, but was disappointed that his side could not make the most of their chances.
When asked if the Lions should have won, he said: "Yes. Of course. It was a home game.
"The boys played very well and their motivation and skills were almost perfect.
"We must finish the three chances in the first 20 minutes. There were no players who had bad performances today. Everybody did what was asked of him.
"When we keep attacking, we are bound to receive counter-attacks. This is a dangerous time for us. Strong teams don't concede at such moments.
"Tonight we did not have the tempo for defending at such moments."
In front of 7,018 fans, the Lions dominated the first 30 minutes, with their pressing and neat link-up play between the midfield and wingers proving too much for Yemen.
After Shahdan Sulaiman, Harris Harun and Faris Ramli had all gone close to giving Singapore what would have been a deserved lead, Ikhsan Fandi netted the opener in the 27th minute.
Faris' neat back-heel near the left touchline found marauding left-back Shakir Hamzah, whose floated cross was headed in emphatically by Ikhsan.
It was the 20-year-old's sixth goal in 13 international games.
The Lions continued to dominate but were caught out twice in defence before the half ended.
In the 34th minute, Ahmed Al-Sarori whipped in a cross from the right flank that was allowed to float over everyone to an unmarked Abdulwasea Al-Matari, who thumped the ball past Izwan Mahbud in goal.
On the stroke of half-time, Yemen took the lead. Forward Mohsen Hasan latched onto a ball played in behind Singapore's defence and lobbed it over an on-rushing Izwan.
Two real attacks for Yemen were rewarded with two goals.
In the second half, it was again the hosts who started brightly, and they found the equaliser within six minutes.
Ikhsan outmuscled and outsprinted his way into the box before his shot was palmed away by Salem Abdullah into the path of Faris. Having missed several chances earlier, he made no mistake this time.
The Lions could have regained their lead, but substitute Gabriel Quak, Ikhsan and Faris could not convert.
Ikhsan took himself to task, saying: "We didn't finish our chances and that was the main issue.
"There's more passing from our team. The team are more possession-based. For a striker, it's nice to play this way.
"We have to stick with our style, if not what's the point of bringing in a new coach?
"We should improve our finishing. I should have scored two today, at least."
Skipper Hariss believes the Lions made life difficult for themselves. He said: "We missed a lot of chances. Somehow, it's the same problem.
"Our concentration dropped. We let Yemen back into the game. We made things difficult for ourselves...
"It's good for the team that we are creating chances, but we should put them away."
The Lions will be hoping to do just that in their next qualifier at the Jalan Besar Stadium next Tuesday. They face 102nd-ranked Palestine, who defeated world No. 84 Uzbekistan 2-0 last night.
SINGAPORE: Izwan Mahbud, Zulqarnaen Suzliman ( Nazrul Nazari 86), Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Hariss Harun, Yasir Hanapi (Hami Syahin 78), Shahdan Sulaiman, Shawal Anuar (Gabriel Quak 58), Faris Ramli, Ikhsan Fandi
YEMEN: Salem Abdullah, Mohammed Omar (Mohammed Buqshan 86), Ahmed Sadeq, Mudir Abdurabu, Ahmed Al-Sarori (Manaf Salad 51), Mohsen Hasan, Abdulwasea Al-Matari, Mohammed Salem (Omar Al-Dahi 67), Nasser Al-Gahwashi, Mufeed Gamal, Emad Tawfik