National Team - Lions ● Oct 16, 2019
Battling Lions defeated by Uzbekistan
SINGAPORE, 15 OCTOBER 2019 – The Lions fell to their second defeat of their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 campaign after a 3-1 loss to Uzbekistan on Tuesday night.
A brace from Eldor Shomurodov saw the visitors, ranked 69 rungs above Singapore at 88th in the FIFA rankings, come away with the three points after Ikhsan Fandi had cancelled out Odil Ahmedov’s opener at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub.
Tatsuma Yoshida made five changes to the side that went down 3-0 away to Saudi Arabia five days earlier, which included handing Hafiz Nor his first ever international start.
But it was the Uzbeks who started strongly and Izwan Mahbud, earning his 50th cap, had to get down smartly to deny Jaloliddin Masharipov’s low angled drive from finding the back of the net on eight minutes. The goalkeeper also stopped Farrukh Sayfiev’s effort from a similar position later in the half, but his goal had been breached by then.
The visiting captain Ahmedov broke the deadlock on 15 minutes through a smart free-kick, which nestled into the far right bottom corner despite Izwan’s best efforts.
The Lions did their best to rally and Hafiz could have opened the scoring minutes earlier but for Eldorbek Suyunov’s save at full stretch to push away his curling effort, while Ikhsan Fandi’s cut-back was hacked clear with team-mates waiting to tap the ball in.
Shomurodov (picture, no. 14) headed a clear chance wide from six yards and Dostonbek Khamadov followed suit, which proved to be costly as Singapore equalised in the first minute of stoppage time.
Nazrul Nazari set up Shahdan Sulaiman to swing in an inviting deep cross from the right, which was met by a fantastic looping header from Ikhsan for his seventh goal in 16 caps.
However, the Lions were swiftly dealt a set-back just six minutes into the second half as Shomurodov rose unchallenged to head in Sayfiev’s left-wing cross.
The 24-year-old FC Rostov striker was a thorn in Singapore’s defence all night and should have had a second just three minutes later, only to roll his shot just wide after rounding Izwan.
He then first smashed an effort into the side-netting, and another off the bar before finally killing the game off two minutes into injury time by breaking the offside trap to collect Ikromjon Alibaev’s slide-rule ball and finish coolly.
Hafiz did test the Suyunov as the 12,547-strong crowd pushed the Lions in their search for an equaliser at 2-1, but the red shirts just could not overcome the stout Uzbek defence.
Tatsuma said afterwards: “Against this kind of opponent at international level, if we give them a chance, they will take it… if we stop running, we lose the game. It’s (all) about the small details… For the third goal, we stopped (tracking our opponents); they (players) cannot accept it and I also cannot accept it.
“Many things have improved (within the team) since June when I came in… (but) we have to improve (more) and the players to be have more confidence. I must accept the result and we must go forward and keep our heads up.”
The result saw Singapore drop to third in Group D with four points from four games. Their next qualifier is an away clash against Yemen on 19 November.