Plucky Lions rip up form book with Bahrain draw
Singapore earn historic point against Bahrain to get their Asian Cup qualifying campaign off to a good start
It was not quite the sensational Miracle of Saitama, in which the Lions held Japan to a goalless draw in 2015.
But this 0-0 stalemate against Bahrain in Riffa must still be regarded as a superb result, for it was against a strong middle eastern team Singapore had never managed to avoid defeat before in six previous A internationals according to Fifa statistics.
It also ended a dreadful run of 13 straight defeats away against middle eastern or Arabic countries since a 2-1 World Cup qualifier victory at Lebanon in 2008.
Showing great resistance in their Asian Cup qualifier Group E opener this morning, V Sundramoorthy's men produced quite literally a defensive performance for the ages.
From the back, teenage centre back Irfan Fandi Ahmad, 19, impressed in his competitive debut with just his third cap alongside 39-year-old Daniel Bennett, the most-capped Lion with 134.
With help from their full backs, they snuffed out the bigger, stronger and technically-superior Bahrain attackers as goalkeeper Hassan Sunny needed to make just one stop throughout the game.
And what a big save it turned out to be, as the Home United custodian, who was flawless in his dealing with crosses, dived low to his left in the 74th minute to deny Ahmed Ali.
While it was true that Bahrain piled on the pressure in search of the elusive matchwinner - right back Faritz Abdul Hameed had to be alert to clear off the line in the 77th minute - to say that Singapore weathered the storm would be an injustice to their overall performance.
The Lions were diligent, disciplined and determined. And if they had been more decisive with the two best chances of the first half, they could even have nicked a famous win.
Overcoming the 10th-minute loss of Khairul Amri due to a groin injury, Safuwan Baharudin shot straight at the goalkeeper from an angle in the 20th minute, while substitute Khairul Nizam stabbed wide from overlapping left back Shakir Hamzah's cross after a sweeping move two minutes later.
It wasn't the typical back-against-the-wall performance that has come to be associated with Sundram's Lions. Rather, it seemed like the team finally managed to execute the type of counterattacking style their coach demands with a focus and committed display.
Even in the last moments of pressure, they did not commit silly fouls and collected just one yellow card - for Irfan - in the entire match.
Typifying the resilience was central midfielder Yasir Hanapi, who ran his heart out and made life hell for the opponents, while combining well with right winger Safuwan to create attacking opportunities.
On the other flank, 33-year-old Juma'at Jantan also turned back the clock and lived up to his Crazy Horse moniker, patrolling the right flank with distinction and frustrating Ismail Abdullatif to the point that the seasoned striker threw a punch at the Singaporean, escaping luckily with just a yellow card.
Skipper Hariss Harun put his European transfer woes behind him with yet another commanding display in central midfield alongside the steady Izzdin Shafiq, providing the defence with good cover.
With Nizam also closing down defenders, it was a true team performance that Sundram can be proud of as his team sit joint-second behind leaders Turkmenistan with five games to play.
He said: "It was a very difficult game. We were very compact, tried to hit on the counter. With a bit of luck, which I didn't have before with the national team, we managed to get a great and very important point for this campaign.
"We watched Bahrain in their previous matches. They are bigger and technically better, so we need to limit the time and space they have with the ball, be compact and don't allow them to create anything.
"This result is a boost for Singapore football and it shows our players can compete at this level if they stay focused and disciplined. We had a good performance against Afghanistan too, but didn't get the result. This time, they really got stuck in and got the job done."
BAHRAIN: Sayed Jaffer, Sayed Isa Hasan, Waleed Al Hayam, Ahmed Ali, Ahmed Abdullah, Ali Habib (Ismail Abdullatif 46), Sayed Dhea (Abdullah Yaser 68), Komail Hasan Abdullah, Hesham Nayem (Abu Bakr Adam 82), Saad Marzooq, Abdullah Yusuf Helal
SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny 7.5, Faritz Abdul Hameed 7.5, Irfan Fandi Ahmad 8, Daniel Bennett 8, Shakir Hamzah 7.5, Safuwan Baharudin 7.5 (Anumanthan Mohan Kumar 70), Hariss Harun 8, Izzdin Shafiq 7, Yasir Hanapi 8.5, Juma'at Jantan 7, Khairul Amri (Khairul Nizam 10, 7 Mustafic Fahrudin 84)
TNP Man of the Match: Yasir Hanapi (Singapore)
David Lee and Benjamin Seetor's trip is sponsored by Qatar Airways Singapore. Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of 195 aircraft flying to more than 150 business and leisure destinations, including Doha and Bahrain. The world's fastest-growing airline will add a number of exciting new destinations, including Dublin, Nice and Skopje, to its network this year.