Young Lions beat Cambodia 3-1 to set up high-stakes clash with Indonesia
Safirul the hero as Young Lions set up high-stakes clash on Thursday
CAMBODIA U-23 1
(Vathanaka Chan 57)
SINGAPORE U-23 3
(Safirul Sulaiman 45, Faris Ramli 45+1, Sahil Suhaimi 90)
Safirul Sulaiman will probably go down as the first footballer to cramp up after a question from the media.
Seated next to coach Aide Iskandar at the post-match press conference, after the Singapore Under-23s beat their Cambodian counterparts 3-1 in a South-east Asia (SEA) Games Group A clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night, the midfielder was asked about his thoughts of his spectacular opening goal.
He winced in pain, stood up holding his thigh and said, "cramp, cramp" - much to the amusement of everyone in the room.
The person who laughed the loudest was his father Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, who was seated in a wheelchair with the rest of Safirul's family.
"I was delighted because I've been wanting to score for my dad for the longest time," the 22-year-old said.
"My dad is suffering after a stroke, so the goal and this win go to him."
How the Young Lions needed that moment of brilliance from Safirul - a curling free-kick that swerved past the Cambodian wall and their despairing goalkeeper to nestle into the far corner of the net.
Needing a victory to stay alive in the tournament, the Singapore U-23s started the game with their full cache of firepower, with Irfan Fandi and Sahil Suhaimi starting together up front.
But dominant as they were in possession, Aide's charges struggled to carve out a real chance - until the free-kick in the 45th minute.
"It was my first free-kick goal in professional football," said the left-footed Safirul.
"I wanted to aim for the near post, but Sahil told me to go far. I took his advice and it paid off."
The goal stunned the Cambodians, who conceded once more a minute later when Irfan clipped a cross for Faris Ramli to head home.
The Cambodians pulled a goal back in a tepid second half, but Sahil struck his first tournament goal in injury time to seal victory.
The 22-year-old striker beat the offside trap, latched on to a through-ball from substitute Amy Recha and drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
The goals from Faris and Sahil were a timely boost for Aide and the Young Lions, as they prepare to face Indonesia on Thursday in a must-win clash for a place in the semi-finals.
"Faris and Sahil have gotten a lot of criticism the past few games," Aide said.
"Before the game, I told Sahil he would score; he just had to be patient.
"I think now you'll see the best from both of them."
Should the Indonesians beat the Philippines tonight, they will go level on points with Singapore heading into the final group game.
In that event, the hosts cannot afford a draw because of their inferior goal difference.
The Young Lions must do without suspended left back Shakir Hamzah for the game and Aide will be sweating on the fitness of Irfan, who came off in the 54th minute last night because of cramps.
"We are not wanting to go into any game thinking of a draw, anyway. It's always better to play needing a win," said Aide, of his team's meeting with Indonesia.
"They still have to beat the Philippines but, if they play for a draw against us, it will be risky for them.
"The boys will no doubt be eager to watch Indonesia play (tonight) and they've already seen them twice.
"We'll be ready for them. It's going to be a really good game."
- Shots on target: Singapore 3, cambodia 3
- Shots off target: Singapore 7, cambodia 2
- Corners: Singapore 1, cambodia 2
- Yellow cards: Singapore 5 (Shakir hamzah, M Anumanthan, Adam Swandi, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Amy Recha). cambodia 2 (Sothearothnen, Y Ratha Phanny)
- Referee: Ma ning (china)
- Attendance: 6,000
- Match Rating: 6.5/10
- Cambodia: Serei Rath Um, Sovan Sok, Sothearoth nen, Visal Soeuy, Pidor Sam oeun, Mony Udom Prak (Sokpheng Keo 78), Suhana Sos, Ravy ol (Phallin hoy 55), chanrasmey Sok (Vathanaka chan 51), chhoeun chhin, Y Ratha Phanny
- Singapore: Syazwan Buhari 7, Al-Qaasimy Rahman 7.5, M Anumanthan 7.5, Sheikh Abdul hadi 7, Shakir hamzah 7, Safirul Sulaiman 7, Pravin guanasagaran 7 (Shamil Sharif 84), Faris Ramli 7 (Amy Recha 68), Adam Swandi 7, Sahil Suhaimi 7, Irfan Fandi 7 (ho Wai Loon 54, 6)
- TNP Man of the Match: Al-Qaasimy Rahman (Singapore) The Singapore captain pleased the crowd in the second half when he flew in for a timely challenge on a cambodian player. not the most emphatic performance, but Al-Qaasimy did his job with little error and stopped the speedy cambodian wingers all night.
Cambodia team manager Chhaing Pisedth spent much of his post-match press conference lamenting over the referee's performance in last night's match.
His team were unhappy with the number of free-kicks awarded to the hosts by China's Ma Ning during the 3-1 defeat, especially the one which resulted in Singapore's first goal in the 45th minute.
But he stunned many members of the media when he also mentioned his dissatisfaction towards Singsoc, the South-east Asia (SEA) Games organising committee.
"We asked for certain food for our players and we even filled up a questionnaire before the Games (indicating) our requests, but we never received (the food)," he explained.
"Also, they refused to give us transport to the (Jalan Besar) stadium when we wanted to watch the other teams play.
"We needed to (assess) the other teams, but we couldn't because of this."