Lions sunk by late Turkmenistan goal
Singapore's Asian Cup 2019 hopes fast evaporating after latest defeat
|(Vahyt Orazsahedov 18, 90+3)||(Irfan Fandi 27)|
Another game, another late goal conceded, and yet another morale-sapping defeat for Singapore.
In a crucial 2019 Asian Cup Group E qualifier in Ashgabat yesterday, the Lions lost 2-1 to world No. 136 Turkmenistan to remain rooted to the bottom of the standings.
The loss extends the 162nd-ranked Lions' winless run to 11 games since their last victory almost a year ago, when they beat Cambodia 1-0 in a friendly last November.
They have also failed to score more than one goal in all 19 "A" internationals since the May 2016 appointment of V Sundramoorthy, who is yet to lead the Lions to a competitive victory.
Crucially, Singapore are bottom of Group E with two points from four games, five behind joint leaders Bahrain and Turkmenistan, and four behind Taiwan, who stunned Bahrain with two late goals in a 2-1 home win yesterday.
Qualification for the tournament in the United Arab Emirates looks an increasingly distant dream with two group games left.
Only maximum points from their home game against Bahrain on Nov 14, and away in Taiwan next March will see them retain a sliver of hope. Even then, they need results elsewhere to go their way.
In the post-match press conference, Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy had to fend off questions from local media about his time-wasting tactics in the second half.
He said: "It was a very difficult game. Turkmenistan are a very good team. We came here with some plans and tried to get the points.
"We were unlucky to concede the goal in the last minute, but I'm very happy with my team's performance.
"This result is not okay for us. At least if we got one point, we would be in a better position.
"We will try our best against Bahrain. We need to beat Bahrain to stand a chance to bring it to the last game."
Despite needing points to haul themselves off the bottom, Sundram, 52, reverted to type and opted for a safety-first approach which he is known for in away games.
As reported by The New Paper yesterday, midfielder Hariss Harun was slotted into a three-man defence alongside Daniel Bennett and Irfan Fandi.
Grafters such as Hafiz Sujad and Madhu Mohana were preferred as wing backs, while defender Safuwan Baharudin was deployed in an advanced role, with 32-goal striker Khairul Amri benched.
However, they could not deal with Turkmenistan's build-up from wide positions as Vahyt Orazsahedov, making his international debut, opened the scoring off a cross from the left after 18 minutes.
Irfan responded with his first international goal nine minutes later, converting Shahdan Sulaiman's free-kick delivery.
But, like in last month's qualifier against the same opponents, they conceded a late goal.
Orazsahedov struck again, this time heading in the winner from a cross from the right deep into added time.
TURKMENISTAN: Mamed Orazmuhamedov, Gurbangeldi Batyrov, Shohrat Soyunov, Mekan Saparov, Umidjan Astanov (Merdan Gurbanov 66), Ahmet Atayev, Bahtiyar Gurbangeldi (Serdar Geldiyev 77), Myrat Annayev (Murat Yakshiyev 56), Arslanmyrat Amanov, Altymyrat Annadurdyyev, Vahyt Orazsahedov
SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Daniel Bennett, Madhu Mohana, Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hafiz Sujad, Safuwan Baharudin, Faris Ramli (Ikhsan Fandi 87), Fazrul Nawaz (Yasir Hanapi 77)