National Team - Lions ● Sep 11, 2019
Lions defeat Palestine for first victory in World Cup 2022 qualifying
SINGAPORE, 10 SEPTEMBER 2019 – A fantastic team performance saw the Lions claim the first victory of their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 campaign as Palestine were beaten 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Goals from Shakir Hamzah and Safuwan Baharudin at Jalan Besar Stadium gave Tatsuma Yoshida his first competitive win as Singapore coach and made it four points from the first two games in Group D.
Having spurned a glut of opportunities to kill the game off in their opening 2-2 draw against Yemen five days ago, the hosts were determined to make amends and broke the deadlock after just four minutes.
Shakir was the beneficiary of good pressing from Ikhsan Fandi and Faris Ramli as Abdallatif Albahdari played a loose pass out and the ball fell kindly for the left wing-back, who planted his first-time finish into the right corner from 14 yards.The 26-year-old’s third Singapore goal – almost two years to the day he scored his first, also on the same turf – fired up the home side and Safuwan forced a good save from Rami Hamada two minutes later.
Faris Ramli also saw his appeals for a penalty waved off after appearing to be barged over in the box, before Ikhsan failed to sort his feet out in time as Shahdan Sulaiman’s parried effort came his way.
But the visitors levelled against the run of play when Mahmoud Wadi’s scuffed overhead kick fell kindly for Yaser Hamed Mayor, who swivelled to fire in from six yards.
Palestine, ranked 60 places above Singapore at 102 by FIFA, nearly took the lead when Wadi surged clear only to be foiled by Izwan Mahbud. The custodian would go on to produce a crucial save in the second half, somehow denying Islam Batran from close range.
That meant that Safuwan’s 11th international goal in the 39th minute would prove to be the match-winner. From a corner earned by Ikhsan, Shahdan’s inswinging delivery from the right was met by the perfect header from the centre-back into the far left corner.
The 6,011-strong capacity crowd roared their approval and Tatsuma acknowledged their vociferousness afterward, saying: “We got the three points because of the support. There was a really good mood in the stadium and it allowed us to get a good start. Congratulations to my boys as well, they played very well… I am really very happy but tomorrow, we will focus on the next (international) games.”
While the inevitable Palestinian spell of pressure came in the second half, the back-line of Irfan Fandi, Safuwan and Amirul Adli held firm to deny the visitors, although there was a nervy moment when Oday Dabbagh was left free in the box to fire into the side-netting.
Tatsuma sent on Hafiz Nor for his third cap and first international appearance since June 2016 with a quarter of the game left, while Fareez Farhan was handed a debut shortly after.
Safe hands from Izwan in the final minute to hold on to a deflected effort meant the Lions came away with a big win – their first win in 16 attempts against Middle Eastern opposition since beating Syria 2-1 at the same venue in 2013.
Captain Hariss Harun, who put in a man-of-the-match performance, savoured the victory but also urged the team to stay grounded, saying: “The coaching staff were very clear about their concepts… and the boys thoroughly understood their individual and team roles. We have to build on this performance, we will enjoy tonight but we have to keep improving.”