National Team - Lions ● Nov 16, 2023
Spirited display not enough as Lions fall to Korea Republic
In the post-match conference, Song shared that despite the result, he was “heartened to see that South Korea did not hold back against them”, November 2023.
SINGAPORE, 16 NOVEMBER 2023 – It was already billed as a clash of David versus Goliath and in this particular case Goliath did triumph as expected, but not without encountering resistance at the beginning.
The weather had been dreary since morning broke, with a consistent light rain threatening to dampen spirits as kick off approached, but it was clear that the Lions were not about to let it affect them in the least. The South Koreans were clearly spurred on by a vociferous home crowd who had turned up in full force, amongst the 64,381 attendance, to support their local heroes led by Son Heung Min. Their head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann was true to his word during the pre-match press match press conference that he would not be taking Singapore lightly, as he fielded a near full strength first 11.
The first half saw the home side expectedly settling down quickly as they sought to dictate the pace of the game and open the scoring. The Lions however were plucky in their defending and were able to stem the tide of wave of Korean attacks with keeper Hassan Sunny determined not to let anything past him. The Koreans did manage to breach the Singapore defence in the 23rd minute through Lee Jae-sung but his effort was flagged for offside.
Hassan Sunny was put to work by the South Korean opponents, November 2023.
A stalemate at half-time would have given the Lions some much needed belief that they might just be able to cause an upset. However, a lapse in concentration in the 44th minute allowed Lee Kang-in to send a ball over the Singapore defence where Cho Gue-sung was waiting to pop up at the far post and score with a glancing header to put his team 1-0 up at the break.
Takayuki Nishigaya initiated his first substitutions with Hafiz Nor coming on for Ryhan Stewart and Anu coming on for Irfan Fandi, who was forced to come off with a calf injury sustained in the first half. Singapore were not allowed any time to settle back down as Korea Republic scored their second goal just four minutes into the restart. This time it was Cho who turned provider as his cross was met by Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Hwang Hee-Chan. The Lions had their own effort ruled out for offside in the 55th minute via a Song Uiyoung free kick which was bundled into the net by Shawal Anuar.
Shawal Anuar’s goal was ruled offside, November 2023.
The physical intensity posed by the Koreans and the biting cold temperature was taking a toll on the Singapore players and sensing this, Nishigaya sent on Christopher Van Huizen, Adam Swandi and Ilhan Fandi in place of Nazrul Nazari, Shawal and Song. Still, there was no stopping Son’s goal in the 63rd minute – undoubtedly the highlight of the night – as he fired a rocket curler from just outside of the box.
Song’s homecoming was proving to a difficult one and was made worse when he inadvertently conceded a penalty by fouling Seol Young-woo in the box. Up stepped substitute Hwang Ui-jo who deftly sent Hassan the wrong way with his spot kick. Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in then found just enough time left in the game to get his name on the scoresheet in the 85th minute.
Safuwan Baharudin and Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min go head-to-head for the ball, November 2023.
Nishigaya was reflective in defeat: “We knew it was always going to be tough and while it was a physically intense game, I am proud of my players’ efforts tonight. We now have to focus on the game against Thailand which we are playing at home, and it is essential that we get a positive result then.”
Song was visibly downcast with the defeat but managed to take consolation with one aspect, saying: “I was heartened to see that South Korea did not hold back when they played us tonight. They were serious and very professional and took us on with every bit of determination as we did with them. The result did not go our way, but the experience gained by me and my teammates after playing against world class players will make us realise just how much we need to raise our game in order to compete at this level.”
Hafiz Nor goes up against Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Hwang Hee-Chan, November 2023.
Klinsmann paid tribute to the performance of the Lions saying: “I told the coach after the game how they played tactically and defensively. That first half was outstanding,” he said. “Also, physically, they didn’t back off. They were in there, they gave one-against-one challenges 100 per cent. It was impressive, very impressive.”
The Lions will now look to return home to more familiar climate settings as they look to quickly regroup and prepare for Thailand’s visit on Tuesday 21 November at the Singapore National Stadium.
Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Nazrul Nazari (Christopher Van Huizen 73’), Lionel Tan, Safuwan Baharudin, Irfan Fandi (M. Anumanthan 46’), Ryhan Stewart (Hafiz Nor 46’), Jacob Mahler, Hariss Harun (C), Song Uiyoung (Ilhan Fandi 82’), Shah Shahiran, Shawal Anuar (Adam Swandi 61’)
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Amirul Adli, Daniel Goh, Zulfahmi Arifin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Ikhsan Fandi
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