National Team - Lions ● Mar 24, 2023
Lions earn hard fought draw against Hong Kong
SINGAPORE, 24 MARCH 2023 – Singapore battled to a draw against Hong Kong yesterday night at the Mongkok Stadium, with debutant Lionel Tan scoring a goal at each end.
Tan, along with fellow debutant Irfan Najeeb, were part of a new look backline that also featured M. Anumanthan and Glenn Kweh – a winger by trade – playing at left back.
While inexperienced, they protected their goal with aplomb and kept custodian Hassan Sunny largely untested. In front of them, the midfield trio of Zulfahmi Arifin, Ho Wai Loon and Hami Syahin provided a protective screen as the Hong Kongers dominated proceedings.
Against the run of play, the 160 ranked Singapore took the lead in the 20th minute through a well-worked set piece routine. Swinging in a cross from the left, Zulfahmi accurately picked out Taufik Suparno who expertly flicked the ball into the path of Tan.
Wearing the number nine jersey, Tan’s finish at the near post would have made any forward proud. Coincidentally, Tan’s last goal for Singapore also came against Hong Kong while he was playing for the Under-23s in 2019.
Lionel Tan celebrates after helping Singapore take the lead against Hong Kong, 23 March 2023
The Lions almost doubled their lead three minutes later. Hassan Sunny’s pinpoint drop ball found Sahil Suhaimi but he shot straight at Paulo Cesar.
The hosts’ pressure down the flanks finally paid off in the 43rd minute when midfielder Ju Yingzhi beat Kweh on the right to whip in a cross that was diverted past Hassan by Tan.
Whatever Head Coach Takayuki Nishigaya said at half time had an effect as the Lions played with greater composure and intensity after the break. Substitute Faris Ramli in particular, who is one of two players to have an attacking contribution in every Singapore Premier League match that he has played, looked sharp.
But it was the introduction of debutant Daniel Goh for the tiring Hafiz Nor in the 58th minute that nearly swung the game in the Lions’ favour. Goh did well to dribble past two defenders and his cross found Sahil, unfortunately the forward’s header flew narrowly wide.
Daniel Goh in action against Hong Kong, 23 March 2023
Hong Kong piled on the pressure as they sought a win in front of their adoring fans, but Singapore held out for an encouraging draw.
Having laid out his intentions to use this international window to bed in new players, Coach Nishigaya kept to his word by handing debuts to Tan, Irfan, Goh and Joel while unleashing the likes of Hami Syahin, Taufik Suparno and Glenn Kweh from the get go.
Coach Nishigaya said: “I’m happy with the debutants, and I felt they stepped up tonight. We have another game on Sunday against Macau and I want them to step up further and prove to me they deserve a spot in the National Team for years to come.”
Lions Head Coach Takayuki Nishigaya, 23 March 2023
Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK)(C), M. Anumanthan, Lionel Tan, Irfan Najeeb, Glenn Kweh (Amirul Adli 73′), Zulfahmi Arifin, Ho Wai Loon (Huzaifah Aziz 58′), Hami Syahin (Joshua Pereira 87′), Hafiz Nor (Daniel Goh 58′), Taufik Suparno (Faris Ramli 46′), Sahil Suhaimi (Joel Chew 80′).
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zaiful Nizam (GK), Amirul Haikal, Ryhan Stewart.