National Team - Lions ● Sep 11, 2018

Hariss, Ikhsan strike as Lions ease past Fiji for Fandi’s first win


– A quick-fire double saw Fandi Ahmad get his first victory as Singapore Head Coach, as they saw off Fiji in a 2-0 success on Tuesday night at Bishan Stadium.


Hariss Harun broke the deadlock and Ikhsan Fandi added a second barely 60 seconds later to seal the Lions’ second win of the year in Fandi’s second match in the hotseat.


The 56-year-old made seven changes to the team that started last Friday in the 1-1 draw against Mauritius – Hassan Sunny, Faritz Hameed, Baihakki Khaizan, Zulfahmi Arifin, Gabriel Quak, Jacob Mahler and Shahdan Sulaiman came in to face the 165th-ranked Fijians.


It was the visitors who started stronger, Roy Krishna forcing Hassan into a save with just two minutes on the clock and Fandi acknowledged his team struggled to adjust.


“We didn’t have the fluidity like in the first game (against Mauritius) due to too many changes,” he said after the game. “(But) after the first ten minutes, we settled down very well, we created very good chances with Ikhsan running and Gabriel coming inside and Zulfadhmi as well.”


It was a blocked shot from Ikhsan that led to the first goal on 12 minutes, with Hariss meeting Zulfahmi’s pin-point delivery from the ensuing corner with a thumping header from eight yards for his seventh goal on his 85th international appearance.


A minute later, Ikhsan latched onto Quak’s perfect lofted pass and drilled the ball in between the legs of Misiwani Nairube for his second goal in as many games.


In particular, Quak enjoyed a bright half before coming off at the break, proving to be a constant menace with his incisive running and smart dribbling.


The Bula Boys did threaten Hassan’s goal as captain Krishna smacked a shot from a tight angle against the post, before the Wellington Phoenix attacker curled a free-kick not far wide.


But Christophe Gamel’s men never really threatened to score otherwise, with Dave Radrigai heading a rare chance wide on the hour mark.


The Frenchman was satisfied enough with their performance, but acknowledged the gulf in quality.


“Playing against professional players, I think we managed really well,” said Gamel, whose side comprised amateurs apart from Krishna and Scott Wara. “We knew that Singapore is very fast and the last ten minutes, we started to go down (deteriorate) physically… Singapore is a good team, I think Coach Fandi will do well (with them).”

Fandi was also pleased with how his team coped with the Fijians, who put in some strong challenges and saw Radrigai cop a second yellow in the 85th minute.


“Fiji are a very physical team but the boys stood up very well,” he said. “We are happy we managed to draw them out because they are very compact… we got behind their lines.”


Fandi also praised debutant Mahler, who completed the full match and was not cowed despite being on the end of several rough challenges, including the one that saw Radrigai sent off.


“He is a true professional, he didn’t react, he (just) gets up and play,” he said. “He can run, he looks clumsy and slow but he gets there to make the tackles and stuck in. He has a good future.”


Zaiful Nizam earned his second cap, three years after his first, while Ho Wai Loon also got his maiden bow, with Fandi adding: “I’m happy for Wai Loon, he played very well and dominated the midfield.”


The Lions’ intensity did drop and only picked up again in the final 20 minutes, with Shahril – who took the armband when Hariss came off – twice testing Nairube and the Fijians making a couple more late blocks to prevent Singapore from getting a third.


“We need to tighten in midfield but we don’t have a lot of time (to do that), only during FIFA windows,” Fandi said. “We need to be (more) compact in transition from defence to attack… against other (stronger) teams we need to focus, we need to be better… with more training, we can make this team better.”


Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK) (Zaiful Nizam 60′), Faritz Hameed, Irfan Fandi, Baihakki Khaizan, Zulfahmi Arifin, Hariss Harun (C) (Ho Wai Loon 64′), Jacob Mahler, Gabriel Quak (Yasir Hanapi 46′), Shahdan Sulaiman (Shahril Ishak 46′), Zulfadhmi Suzliman (Khairul Amri 64′), Ikhsan Fandi (Shakir Hamzah 80′).
Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Safuwan Baharudin, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Izzdin Shafiq, Nazrul Nazari, M. Anumanthan, Hami Syahin, Khairul Nizam, Haiqal Pashia.