National Team - Lions ● Jun 12, 2021
Battling Lions defeated by Saudis
Madhu Mohana on the ball against Saudi Arabia, 11 June 2021
RIYADH, 12 JUNE 2021 – A late blitz from Saudi Arabia saw the Lions fall to a 3-0 defeat on Friday night at Mrsool Park Stadium.
The hosts took the lead on 84 minutes through Salem Al-Dawsari and added two more goals to stay top of Group D in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and AFC Asian Cup China 2023™ Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2, but the scoreline was perhaps harsh on Singapore.
Tatsuma Yoshida acknowledged a much improved performance in this final qualifier from his charges, who had lost 4-0 and 5-0 to Palestine and Uzbekistan over the past week.
“Today, our boys did very well and I am proud of them,” he said after the match. “We changed our formation and they followed some (new) strategies… It was fantastic, but Saudi Arabia are very strong.”
Three changes were made to the starting line-up as Hami Syahin, who impressed throughout, was given his first start in Riyadh. Amirul Adli also made his first appearance in the three games, while Irfan Fandi was restored to the team.
Ranked 65th by FIFA, 94 spots above the Lions, Herve Renard’s men needed all three points to ensure they stayed top ahead of a final-day showdown with the Uzbeks. However, they found the Lions a tough nut to crack in the first half and struggled to fashion clear chances, with Al-Dawsari blasting over their best opening in front of 4,879 fans – a handful of whom were Singaporeans living in Riyadh.
Hami Syahin makes a pass against Saudi Arabia, 11 June 2021
Madhu Mohana, Irfan and Amirul Adli were resolute in defence and threw their bodies in the way of several efforts throughout, while at the other end Faris Ramli – and later, Shawal Anuar – was a constant nuisance. Shawal was also unfortunate to see a fierce effort come off the post on 72 minutes.
But the Green Falcons finally broke the deadlock when Al-Dawsari converted a rebound after Saleh Alshehri’s effort came off the post and fell his way, before Fahd Almuwallad pounced on a defensive lapse to score three minutes later. The Lions kept going but conceded a third five minutes into injury time as Alshehri clinically fired home.
Tatsuma admitted that the Lions still have to improve in order to compete at international level, but was pleased that they gave their all.
“In the previous two matches, our boys were not used to playing at (the intensity of) international level (again), but finally they got used to it (tonight),” he said. “They were not scared and tried to do something and fought together. But we can improve more, we are not enough (currently) and we have to understand that and know that we can do more. After we go back to Singapore, we have to keep on going with the same intention and intensity.”
Captain Yasir Hanapi added: “It (the performance) shows that if we want to do it, we can do it; it is just that we can’t deny that we need (to also put in) a lot more work. We put our bodies in, we fought, we competed with them and those are things I am very proud of.”
Singapore: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Irfan Fandi, Amirul Adli (Baihakki Khaizan 87’), Hafiz Sujad (Hafiz Nor 59’), Hami Syahin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Zulfahmi Arifin (M Anumanthan 90’+3), Yasir Hanapi (C) (Shawal Anuar 59’), Faris Ramli (Saifullah Akbar 90’+3).
Unused subs: Zaiful Nizam (GK), Hassan Sunny (GK), Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Hazzuwan Halim, Ilhan Fandi, Idraki Adnan, Gabriel Quak.