National Team - Lions ● Jun 02, 2022
Lions fall to clinical Kuwait in friendly
Ikhsan Fandi controls the ball, 1 June 2022
ABU DHABI, 2 JUNE 2022 – An inability to finish their chances proved to be the Lions’ downfall in a 2-0 defeat to Kuwait on Wednesday night at the Al Nahyan Stadium.
A goal in each half from the 146th-ranked Al-Azraq in the international friendly meant that Takayuki Nishigaya’s first match in charge ended in a loss, but the Japanese saw enough to feel optimistic ahead of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup™ 2023 Qualifiers Final Round campaign that begins on 8 June in Bishkek, Krygyz Republic.
“The players tried what I demanded and I am happy to see that,” he told media after the match. “We were able to win the ball with our high pressing; (at the same time), we lost the ball a lot of times in the middle, (so) we should improve on keeping the ball (in order) to get goals. We created a lot of chances and of course I am happy to see that, but of course we have to score the goals. I believe in our strikers and if we can make good chances like we did today, definitely we are going to get the goals.”
Safuwan Baharudin heads the ball, 1 June 2022
The Lions arguably should have broken the deadlock first after starting on the front foot. Safuwan Baharudin powered a header straight at goalkeeper Hussein Kankone in the 15th minute, before Song Uiyoung fired right down the custodian’s throat seven minutes later. Ikhsan Fandi had the clearest opportunity in the 35th minute after being released by Song, but could only drag a left-footed effort wide. Shah Shahiran then saw an effort cleared off the line after Song’s pass had caused chaos in the box.
A minute after that, Kuwait punished Singapore when Fahad Al-Reshidi headed in a corner from close range on 39 minutes to open the scoring. There were fewer opportunities for both sides after the break, with the Kuwaitis keen to slow the game down, although Glenn Kweh nearly made it a debut to remember when he fired a half-chance into Kankone’s grateful arms in the 76th minute.
Kuwait then clinically finished their only chance of the half in the 87th minute as Yousef Nasser Al-Sulaiman sprung the offside trap and latched onto a through ball before rounding Hassan Sunny to slot home. “We will go back to the hotel and analyse the game,” Nishigaya said. “Of course, we have to improve on how we conceded but overall, it (the performance) was quite okay. I am not surprised (the players adjusted to my tactics quickly) because I felt a high level of commitment from the players during those two (full) training sessions (we had before tonight).”
Hassan, who earned his 95th cap, felt that the scoreline was “not a reflection” of the match and believes that the Lions have to take the positives and improve further.
“I think everyone knows that we played well and it is just that we were not ruthless in front of goal,” the 38-year-old said. “Coach Gaya has tried to instil a lot of aggressiveness in our pressing… (and we are) working a lot on transitions; the minute we win the ball, we need to go towards the goal as fast as possible.
“Personally, I feel that we did well… we had chances and we were in scoring positions. So hopefully, in the days to come we can work on our finishing and try to get some goals in the Qualifiers.”
Shah Shahiran started a match for Singapore for the first time, 1 June 2022
Another pleasing aspect was the fine performance of Shah, who turned in an assured display on his maiden international start. “I have to single out Shah, I think he did very well,” Hassan said of the 22-year-old midfielder. “. He didn’t look out of place and had a good understanding with Shahdan, Song and Yasir (Hanapi).” Nishigaya added of Shah and Kweh, who looked lively after coming off the bench: “I am glad to see those young players and they showed that they deserve to be national team players. Of course they need to get more experience to (be able) to cope with (the demands at) international level.”
The Lions are set to depart for Bishkek later tonight and will have six days to prepare before their Group F opener against the Kyrgyz Republic on 8 June, which will be followed by matches against Tajikistan (11 June) and Myanmar (14 June). Apart from goalscoring, Nishigaya has also identified physical conditioning as an area to work on before the Qualifiers.
“Our fitness levels are not (quite) ready to play 90 minutes (yet) so we have to focus on getting back our match fitness as quick as possible,” he said. “Of course, I have good coaching and background stuff so we can make it, definitely. I am not satisfied with today’s result, but I want us to continue (going forward) to play like (how we did) tonight. I want to deliver, to the Singapore fans, our commitment and our desire to go to the next level.”
Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun (C) (Amirul Adli 61’), Safuwan Baharudin, Nazrul Nazari (Gabriel Quak 77’), Yasir Hanapi (Hafiz Nor 46’), Shahdan Sulaiman, Shah Shahiran, Iqram Rifqi (Nur Adam Abdullah 46’), Ikhsan Fandi (Glenn Kweh 60’), Song Uiyoung (Adam Swandi 71’).
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zaiful Nizam (GK), Ryaan Sanizal, Faris Ramli, Ryhan Stewart, Saifullah Akbar.
Singapore line-up against Kuwait, 1 June 2022