National Team - Lions ● Oct 16, 2018

Jacob, Ikhsan strike in Lions’ spirited win over Cambodia

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PHNOM PENH, 16 OCTOBER 2018 – Jacob Mahler’s first-ever senior goal set the stage for a superb comeback as Singapore triumphed 2-1 against Cambodia on Tuesday night at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium.

The 18-year-old equalised just after the hour mark in just his second appearance for the Lions, before Ikhsan Fandi struck to seal our third consecutive win – a first since June 2015 – and our first away win since June 2016.

Head Coach Fandi Ahmad was pleased with the manner of the victory, which was the first time we came back to win after falling behind first since a 2-1 away win to Bangladesh in May 2015.

“We are very happy that we’ve got that strong fighting spirit even though we went down,” he said. “We started slowly and had to make some adjustments; they have fast wingers and they dominated (early on)…

“We showed a lot of determination today. We know we can fight, we have good spirit in the team… we never gave up, we kept attacking until the last minute and we could have scored two or three more goals.”

Safuwan Baharudin (below, with Irfan Fandi – image from Football Federation of Cambodia) led the National Team out for the first time on his 81st cap and nearly got the visitors off to a perfect start, getting his head to Zulfahmi Arifin’s corner on two minutes and seeing his effort drop wide.

But the hosts settled quickly after and buoyed by the 38,115-strong crowd, went ahead on 17 minutes when Ho Wai Loon, making his first start, inadvertently turned a cross from Sath Rosib past Hassan Sunny. It was the first time we had conceded in 282 minutes.

Emboldened, the Kouprey piled forward and put pressure on the Singapore back-line, though they were unable to create clear-cut opportunities, which Fandi noted.

“Cambodia were dangerous but I thought our defensive line was quite solid,” he said. “I didn’t see any clear chances from them.”

Mahler and Adam Swandi came on at the start of the second half and Singapore restarted with more vigour, with Ikhsan Fandi’s final touch letting him down when he was through before his knock-down was dragged wide by Mahler from 20 yards.

Chan Vathanaka’s introduction on 56 minutes was warmly received by the crowd, but it was Singapore who had something to cheer five minutes later.

Zulfahmi Arifin’s excellent free-kick from the right was not dealt with properly and it fell to Mahler, who scrambled it over the line from five yards to draw Fandi’s men level.

Ikhsan then spurned a glorious chance just two minutes later, scuffing his finish just wide after embarking on a mazy run that took out three Cambodians.

That was followed by a half-chance that he headed over from close range, but the 19-year-old finally made an opportunity count on 75 minutes.

Chasing down Izzdin Shafiq’s ball over the top, Ikhsan managed to beat the last man before deftly guiding the ball beyond the onrushing Um Vichet and into the bottom right corner for his third Singapore goal.

Tables turned, Singapore continued to push forward and the scoreline could have been more comfortable had Vichet not saved from Faris Ramli, before Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri – earning their 137th and 125th caps respectively – saw efforts repelled as well.

The Lions managed to see out the win to remain unbeaten in Fandi’s first four games and will next head to Japan for a training camp as preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup continue.

Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Irfan Fandi, Safuwan Baharudin (C), Ho Wai Loon (Jacob Mahler 46’), Izzdin Shafiq (M. Anumanthan 87’), Zulfahmi Arifin, Yasir Hanapi (Adam Swandi 46’), Iqbal Hussain (Khairul Amri 79’), Faris Ramli (Huzaifah Aziz 90’+2), Ikhsan Fandi (Shahril Ishak 77’).
Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Zaiful Nizam (GK), Madhu Mohana, Nazrul Nazari,,Baihakki Khaizan, Gabriel Quak, Khairul Nizam.