AffSuzukiCup2020 ● Dec 26, 2021

Heartbreak for valiant Lions in AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 semi-final defeat


Hariss Harun, 25 December 2021


SINGAPORE, 26 DECEMBER 2021 – A herculean effort from Singapore after going down to eight men was not enough on Saturday night as they succumbed to a 4-2 extra-time defeat against Indonesia in the second leg of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2020 semi-finals.


There was everything to play for after a 1-1 first leg draw three nights ago and the visitors drew first blood through Ezra Walian. Safuwan Baharudin was then shown a second yellow before Song Uiyoung levelled, but the Lions were dealt a further blow after the break through Irfan Fandi’s dismissal.


Remarkably, Shahdan Sulaiman put Singapore ahead despite the numerical disadvantage, only for Shin Tae-yong’s side to level the tie through Pratama Arhan late on and survive a Faris Ramli penalty miss to force extra time.


The Indonesians added two more goals through Irfan Jaya and Egy Maulana in the extra 30 minutes but the Lions earned the plaudits of the 9,982 fans at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub for a magnificent display in defeat.


It was a performance that Head Coach Tatsuma Yoshida was proud of, despite his charges falling short of reaching the final.


“Even though we lost a few players (to red cards), we did not give up and I was moved by their fighting spirit,” he said the virtual post-match press conference. “Before the match, I told them ‘you do not miss this opportunity to be finalists’ and they answered that with their performance.


“This was their best performance since I became Singapore coach (in May 2019). I feel happy working with them and I am very proud of them. This never-give-up mentality is the most important thing… we showed that we can improve, become stronger and move Singapore football to greater heights.


“The referee’s decision is final. If he says it is a foul, it is a foul. If he says it is a red, it is a red. We have to accept it – that is football. Even if it is difficult to accept, we have to accept it.”


Song Uiyoung, 25 December 2021


Shahdan added: “We cannot control the referee’s decision but we, the players, can continue the fight with whatever we have. We kept motivating each other on the pitch… Despite the numerical disadvantage, we gave all our hearts and soul out there.


“It is so heartening to see the fans cheering for us even though the result did not go our way. It shows that they appreciate our efforts. We have a good mix of young and experienced players in this squad… Hopefully we can build on from there for the next competition.”


Hafiz Nor and Amy Recha were handed their first Suzuki Cup starts in a must-win match but the visitors opened the scoring on 11 minutes as Ezra converted Witan Sulaeman’s square pass.


Amy Recha, 25 December 2021


The Lions took some time to rally and were unfortunate not to have had a penalty after Amy Recha was seemingly brought down by Rachmat Irianto on 41 minutes.


The referee then booked Safuwan for a second time on the stroke of half-time for an off-the-ball incident as free-kick was about to be taken, although Song would level from the set-piece by firing home a loose ball.


The visitors piled on the pressure and almost scored on the hour mark with Rachmat’s close-range shot coming off the bar after a half-cleared corner.


Song Uiyoung celebrates, 25 December 2021


Substitute Shawal Anuar came close with an outrageous 40-yard effort that floated just wide, before the Lions went another man down on 67 minutes.


Irfan was deemed to have denied his Indonesian namesake a clear goalscoring opportunity as both tussled for the ball, with the referee showing him a straight red card.


Against the odds, the Lions went ahead on 74 minutes. After Faris Ramli drew a foul on the edge of the box, Shahdan proceeded to curl a gorgeous free-kick into the top left corner to send the home fans wild.


Shahdan Sulaiman strikes a free-kick, 25 December 2021


Shahdan almost repeated the trick five minutes later from a tight angle but his cheeky effort was tipped over by Nadeo.


But the Indonesians pulled an equaliser out of the bag with three minutes left as Pratama buried a rebound, although there was a strong suspicion of offside in the build-up.


Incredibly, Faris had the opportunity to win the game right at the death – but his penalty was saved to leave both teams headed into extra time.


The Garuda then took the lead a minute into the restart through an unfortunate own goal from Shawal Anuar, before Egy Maulana struck a further blow in the 107th minute with a close-range effort.


But the Lions never gave up and Hassan, in particular, made a series of astonishing saves to keep the hosts in the match. With time running out, the 37-year-old goalkeeper then copped a red card after rushing out of his area to deny a goal-scoring opportunity.


While there were tears and palpable disappointment at the final whistle, Tatsuma chose to stay optimistic.


“I want to say to all Singaporeans ‘we must trust ourselves’,” he said. “I am always telling my boys that we (our standard of football) is not so big of a difference as compared to Japan.


“So, everyone must keep the belief (for Singapore football). If we do not believe, we will never catch up (to the rest).”


Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun (C), Safuwan Baharudin, Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Nazrul Nazari 93’), Shahdan Sulaiman, Hami Syahin (Shawal Anuar 60’), Nur Adam Abdullah (Tajeli Salamat 106’), Song Uiyoung (Amirul Adli 70’), Hafiz Nor (Faris Ramli 60’), Amy Recha (Ikhsan Fandi 60’).
Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zulfahmi Arifin, Iqram Rifqi, Adam Swandi, Saifullah Akbar.


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