National Team - Lionesses ● Apr 12, 2022
Lionesses go down fighting in narrow loss to Papua New Guinea
Lionesses after the final whistle, 11 April 2022.
SINGAPORE, 12 APRIL 2022 – Before the Lionesses faced Papua New Guinea in the final fixture of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Tri-Nations Series 2022 (Women’s), some might have expected the Oceanian giants to ease to victory.
Ranked 49th in the world and fresh off a 9-0 win against the Seychelles three days earlier, the visitors were clear favourites against a Singapore side sat 89 rungs below on Monday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
When the final whistle went, however, the Lionesses in red had every right to feel that the 1-0 defeat was not deserved after a gutsy and gritty display that saw them hold their own.
Head Coach Stephen Ng said: “We showed everyone that we can compete at this level, against any team with a higher world ranking. We took Papua New Guinea on and we gave a good account of ourselves, which I am very proud of. There was fantastic effort from every player and as a team, we put on a valiant effort.”
The Lakatois, who are five-time Pacific Games champions, showed their mettle from the first minute with skilful play and quick touches in the midfield from midfielder Ramona Padio and forwards Marie Kaipu and Maegan Gunemba.
But the hosts were stout at the back, with goalkeeper Noor Kusumawati a commanding presence while the front four of Danelle Tan, Stephanie Dominguez, Farhanah Ruhaizat and Putri Syaliza put together some promising offensive transitions that just lacked the final ball.
Goalkeeper Noor Kusumawati makes a clean save, 11 April 2022.
Deadlocked at the break, the Lionesses emerged from the dressing room with renewed desire and vigour, much to the delight of 2,344 spectators that boisterously cheered their every move.
Farhanah, who earned her 20th cap, praised the team’s determination: “We were contributing towards each other’s motivation, and we were mostly inspired by the fans who cheered us on; they showed us that they had our back. We knew that today’s game was going to be hard, and we expected to have our work cut out for us. Our captain (Ernie Sulastri) and vice-captain (Dominguez) supported us a lot in (staying focused) and motivated.
“The team is also much more united than before and we went in together for any attack or defence. It feels amazing to give our all as one and that the effort comes as a team.”
Midfielder Dorcas Chu, who put in an assured central midfield showing, concurred: “We took a little longer to adapt to them because they were better in many ways – they were faster, bigger than us and stronger physically – but ultimately, it was about how we wanted to fight, and we really wanted the win as a team.”
Midfielder Dorcas Chu sprints with the ball, 11 April 2022.
The 19-year-old, who scored her first Singapore goal in a 6-2 win against Seychelles a week earlier, took heart from the indomitable fighting spirit of the team. “It is a very encouraging sign to see, and we showed what the Singapore Women’s National Team is made of and how far we have come. At the end of the match, some of us had our heads down but it was not a sign of failure; it was because we felt that we had a good chance to win the game and wanted it badly. We will continue working on ourselves as a unit and will carry the takeaways from this game into (our preparation for) the Southeast Asian Games.”
The sole goal, when it came in the 74th minute, was an unfortunate one. Having done superbly to block a point-blank attempt, Kusumawati was helpless to see the rebound come off a team-mate before the ball fell kindly for substitute Sonia Emhabe to tap across the line.
The Lionesses never gave up and among several attempts by Dominguez, Tan and Chu, substitute Ho Hui Xin spurned the best opportunity when she fired wide after being picked out by a stunning pass from Tan.
Regardless, Coach Ng was very encouraged and said: “We are making progress and we can see that from the win against Seychelles and our display today. If you compare us to some teams in ASEAN like Thailand and Vietnam, we still have some gaps that we have to work on – it is not something we can achieve overnight, but we are going to continue this improvement.”
Singapore: Noor Kusumawati, Nur Syazwani Ruzi, Nurhidayu Naszri (Khairunnisa Khairol Anwar 81’), Stephanie Dominguez (Ho Hui Xin 81’), Fatin Aqillah Ridzwan, Farhanah Ruhaizat (Venetia Lim 71’), Danelle Tan, Putri Nur Syaliza (Izzati Rosni 71’), Ernie Sulastri, Dhaniyah Qasimah (Nur Afiqah Omar 89’), Dorcas Chu (Mastura Jeilani 89’)
Unused subs: Beatrice Tan, Siti Nurerwadah Erwan, Umairah Hamdan, Clara Lau, Nadhra Aqilah Saiful, Syafiqah Peer