Lions' winless run continues with Lebanon defeat
Singapore outplayed by Lebanon in final warm-up before crucial Asian Cup qualifier
|(Ali Hamam 18)|
Singapore's winless run in 2017 continued last night, after they lost 1-0 to Lebanon in a friendly at the National Stadium.
The result means that they have just one more chance to ensure this year is not a washout.
It will come next Tuesday, when they host Bahrain in a Group E Asian Cup qualifier in their final game of the year.
While coach V. Sundram Moorthy seemed satisfied with the performance of his charges yesterday, for long periods, it looked like a match pitting men against boys.
"I believe our boys battled hard, and we really should have taken those few chances that we created," he said.
"But you can see that Lebanon are a strong team with very good technique."
Lebanon's quality was on show for most of the first half. With good touches, slick passing and a fluid interchange of positions, Lebanon made the Lions look like amateurs.
Twice, the Lebanese players ran straight through the Singapore midfield unmolested.
It was through one such move that led to Ali Hamam's 18th-minute goal.
Nader Matar ran past the Singapore defence, before releasing Hamam with a reverse-pass that set him free inside the box to score.
But, Singapore did improve, and even created chances of their own.
The best chance fell to 26-year-old Safuwan Baharudin - who led the Lions' attacking line - but he flashed his shot wide in the 38th minute.
Said Sundram: "We've been playing against strong teams, but performance-wise, you can see that the boys are improving, and they are motivated."
The Lions improved in the second half which saw each side make six substitutions.
Sundram pointed to their ball possession in their own defensive third, and the team's ability to keep a compact shape as the most positive aspects of the performance.
He would have also been buoyed by the showing of goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, who was a mammoth in Singapore's goal.
Geylang International midfielder Shawal Anuar was another bright spark, as he showed encouraging signs that he can cut it at the international level.
Sundram would have also been pleased to see a livelier Safuwan, especially after several disinterested performances for the Lions recently.
He believes that this display puts his team in good stead ahead of next Tuesday's must-win qualifier against Bahrain, against whom they have a chance to win their first match since a 1-0 win over Cambodia last November.
Singapore are bottom of their qualifying group, with just two points from four games.
They are four points behind third-placed Taiwan, and five points adrift of both Turkmenistan and group leaders Bahrain.
Even if they win their final two group matches, the odds of them progressing to the 2019 Asian Cup Finals in the United Arab Emirates remain slim.
"If you compare Bahrain to Lebanon, I think Lebanon are much stronger.
And if we can limit a team like Lebanon to just one goal, I think we can be positive about the Bahrain game," said Sundram.
"We can go on to battle for full points in that match."
Singapore: Hassan Sunny, Madhu Mohana, Daniel Bennett, Hariss Harun, Faritz Hameed, Izzdin Shafiq (M Anumanthan 56), Shahdan Sulaiman (Zulfahmi Arifin 67), Hafiz Sujad (Ikhsan Fandi 90), Shawal Anuar (Nazrul Nazari 60), Safuwan Baharudin (Khairul Amri 72), Faris Ramli (Irfan Fandi 46)
Lebanon: Mehdi Kahlil, Maher Sabra, Mootaz Jounaidi (Nour Mansour 68), Kassem El Zein, Ali Hamam (Mohamed Tahan 46), Ahmad Jalloul, Rabih Ataya (Omar Chaaban 46), Nader Matar (Jad Noureddine 74), Samir Ayass (Adnan Haidar 66), Mohamad Haidar, Hilal Alhelwe (Abou Bakr Al Mel 62)