National Team - Lions ● Nov 15, 2019
Lions go down to Qatar in friendly
DOHA, 14 NOVEMBER 2019 – Two first-half goals saw Singapore fall to a 2-0 defeat against Qatar on Thursday evening in an international friendly at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.
Mohammed Muntari broke the deadlock and Shahdan Sulaiman turned the ball into his own net, but the score did not tell the whole story as the Lions impressed with some slick passages of play and posed problems to the reigning Asian champions.
National Team Coach Tatsuma Yoshida noted: “Almost everything was positive, honestly. We played very well, but… we couldn’t score. We didn’t have many, but we had enough chances. Our build-up play was much better than before and the players understood (our concept) well; day by day and game by game, they have improved.”
On a night where captain Hariss Harun earned his 100th international cap, Iqram Rifqi was handed his first and he will rue not giving Singapore a shock lead on 24 minutes.
Having linked up well with Yasir Hanapi to beat pressure from three Qatari players near our own penalty area, Shahdan then produced a raking 50-yard ball to send Iqram away. The left-back steadied himself as he went one on one with Mohamed Al-Bakri, but his low strike was well saved.
The hosts, ranked 57th in the world – 102 places above Singapore – punished Tatsuma’s men seven minutes later.
Even without star trio Almoez Ali, Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos, Qatar were still a force to be reckoned with and Ismaeel Mohammad, a thorn down the right all game, sent in a cross that Muntari met with an excellent first-time side-footed finish from 10 yards into the bottom right corner.
The striker had already been denied by Hassan Sunny two minutes earlier and the Singapore custodian, making his 85th appearance, was in fine form. A reaction save prevented Al-Mahdi Ali from doubling the lead and Hassan went on to make at least seven more stops, including a stunning point-blank one to deny substitute Ahmed Moein after the break.
Félix Sánchez’s men did take a two-goal advantage at half-time, as Shahdan inadvertently diverted Ismaeel’s cross past Hassan on 43 minutes.
But the Qataris were blanked in the second half by the Lions, who had openings of their own through Hariss and Shahdan; the former forced Al-Bakri into a smart save while the latter skied Hariss’ cut-back over from 14 yards.
Tatsuma was satisfied with the team’s overall efforts, but warned that defeats cannot become a habit.
“We have improved (very much) in the past three months,” he said. “Three months ago, maybe Qatar is too far (in terms of level) but now, it’s not that far. Their level is of course still above us, but not as much as before.
“The result doesn’t (really) matter (as it’s a friendly and we played well) but the players cannot get used to losing. We had clear chances and we must score; if we don’t, the opponents will score.”
Apart from Hariss’ milestone and Iqram’s debut, the match also saw Khairul Nizam (above) make his first start since June 2017, Hazzuwan Halim make his first ever international start and Sahil Suhaimi come on to make his first appearance since June 2016.
Tatsuma added: “These players showed very good performances today. Iqram was quite nervous but he made a lot of chances and he showed he could be an important player for us (in future). Nizam was quite tired in the second half but his performance was also very good, he played alone upfront and held the ball well and had good communication (with the rest); he is good competition for Ikhsan. Hazzuwan’s performance was also good… his body size (might be small) but it doesn’t matter; his (strength is in his) quickness, technique and ideas.”
The Lions face Yemen next in the World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday, 19 November in Muharraq, Bahrain at 11pm Singapore time.
All photos courtesy of Qatar FA