National Team - Lions ● Mar 23, 2018
Goals Flow as Lions Start 2018 with a Win
Singapore beat Maldives in a five-goal thriller thanks to goals from Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman and Shakir Hamzah
SINGAPORE, 23 MARCH 2018: A strong second-half showing saw Singapore clinch a long-awaited victory on Friday night as they edged a spirited Maldives side 3-2 at the National Stadium.
Having gone through 2017 without a win, National Team Head Coach V. Sundram Moorthy was seeking a positive start in their first international match of the year and his charges delivered.
Captain Hariss Harun broke the deadlock on 38 minutes and though the visitors equalised two minutes later, Shahdan Sulaiman restored the lead in the 66th minute and Shakir Hamzah struck the winner in the 73rd minute.
Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain pounced on a defensive mistake to grab an 81st-minute consolation but the Lions held on for a deserved win.
“In the first half, we created chances and should have been leading at least 3-1,” Sundram said at the post-match press conference.
“I think we managed to keep the ball well and circulate possession… in the first half, we had seven to nine shots at goal, so it was quite positive.
“In the second half, the penalty (for us) was clear and Shakir scored from nowhere… I believe our boys can be confident moving forward.”
Sundram was naturally happy to see the goals flow again, with the Lions having not scored more than once in a match since March 2016.
“Obviously (I am pleased because as) you know our scoring has been an issue,” he smiled.
Lined up in a 3-4-3 formation, the home side’s first real attempt came through Irfan Fandi’s header in the 10th minute but goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal thwarted the defender.
Faisal then held two tame efforts from Faris Ramli and Shahdan, while Hassan Sunny did well to field Ali Fasir’s fierce free-kick at the other end.
It should have been 1-0 in the 26th minute but Shawal Anuar skewed his close-range effort with the goal at his mercy. The Geylang International FC attacker then smashed a fierce shot against the post just two minutes later.
The pressure finally told when Hariss lashed in the loose ball after his blocked header fell back to him to notch his sixth international goal.
But the Red Snappers quickly levelled when Mohamed Umair’s free-kick crept in and Sundram admitted the defending was less than ideal.
“The concern is that we gave away soft goals,” he said.
The Lions were unchanged after the break but noticeably stepped up the tempo, with Yasir Hanapi cracking an effort over from range before Shawal headed Shakir’s pin-point cross right at Faisal.
It was a matter of time before the breakthrough came and it arrived when Shawal was tripped in the box by Ali Samooh following a neat turn.
“Shawal was always there, either trying to score or create something for us,” noted Sundram, who also praised Nazrul Nazari and Shakir, Yasir and Hariss.
Up stepped Shahdan to coolly fire in the penalty, which was his third goal for Singapore and first since scoring in a 2-2 home draw against Malaysia in June 2012.
Two became three soon after as left wing-back Shakir’s crisp volley off Irfan’s clearance caught Faisal by surprise and went in for his second international goal in as many games.
Geylang defender Anders Aplin then came on for his debut, while Adam Swandi was brought on for his first appearance since August 2015. The game also saw Baihakki Khaizan mark his recall by earning his 130th cap.
While Ibrahim Muhadhee’s cool finish on 81 minutes reduced the deficit, Maldives Head Coach Petar Segrt had no doubt that the outcome was just.
“I have to congratulate Singapore, they were the better team,” he said. “Maybe we were a little unlucky but on the whole, the win is okay for Singapore.”
The Singapore boys next play Chinese Taipei in their final Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifier on 27 March and while it is a dead rubber, Sundram wants the winning momentum to continue.
“It’s (this win) good for the confidence,” he said. “I think they (Taipei) are much stronger and more well-organised… We have to play for pride.”
SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi (Anders Aplin 73′), Baihakki Khaizan (Izzdin Shafiq 85′), Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari (Emmeric Ong 82′), Hariss Harun (C), Shahdan Sulaiman, Shakir Hamzah (Hafiz Sujad 90′), Faris Ramli (Safuwan Baharudin 70′), Shawal Anuar (Adam Swandi 80′), Yasir Hanapi.
Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud, Zaiful Nizam, Benjamin Davis, M. Anumanthan, Ikhsan Fandi, Khairul Amri.