National Team - Lions ● Nov 21, 2018

Safuwan grabs hat-trick as Lions put six past Timor-Leste


SINGAPORE, 21 NOVEMBER 2018 – A superb hat-trick from Safuwan Baharudin spearheaded a handsome victory for Singapore on Wednesday night as they swept Timor-Leste aside in a 6-1 win.


Fandi Ahmad called for goals before the game and the Lions answered, smashing in four goals in the first half before rounding off the win late on in their third ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup Group B match.


Safuwan and Ikhsan Fandi each got a brace before the break, before Faris Ramli headed in a fifth and Safuwan completed his treble.


“We are very happy to get these three points, it’s not easy because they (Timor-Leste) are all fighters,” Fandi said. “They ran (a lot) and equalised after one minute, but we did our job well. We closed them down well and I think our set-pieces really worked today, which we have been practicing the last few days.”


Rufino Gama momentarily silenced the 18,408-strong crowd when he tapped in from close range barely 60 seconds after Safuwan had headed in Zulfahmi Arifin’s corner, but the Lions responded strongly.


The lead was regained on 19 minutes through Safuwan, who thumped the rebound in from close range after Ikhsan Fandi’s free-kick was parried back into the area by Aderito Fernandes.


Just past the half-hour mark, Ikhsan notched his first ever Suzuki Cup goal when he was Johnny on the spot to sweep in the loose ball after Zulfahmi’s free-kick had wreaked havoc.


Gabriel Quak, Hariss Harun and Khairul Amri all went close but it would be Ikhsan who struck again on 43 minutes – and it was a moment to savour.

Izzdin Shafiq’s half-cleared free-kick was headed back across goal by Safuwan, where Ikhsan executed a perfect overhead kick to score Singapore’s 100th goal in the tournament. Remarkably, it was his father Fandi who scored the Lions’ first, back in a 1-1 draw against Malaysia in the 1996 edition.


Singapore did not let up after the break but contrived to spurn some very good opportunities. Amri scuffed his effort from a tight angle before teeing up Izzdin to blaze over, while Nazrul Nazari was unfortunate to see his fierce drive crash off the woodwork.


Shakir Hamzah came close twice, first with a goal-bound effort deflected behind before he headed over from six yards. Hariss was next to have a go, getting to the ball each time at two corners but headed the first chance wide and the second straight at the goalkeeper.


By the end of the match, the statistics would show 26 shots taken by the Lions, with 14 of those on target.


Zulfahmi’s corner prowess would provide the next breakthrough on 90 minutes as substitute Faris glanced in a near-post delivery to become the 30th Singaporean to score in the Suzuki Cup, before Safuwan rose majestically to head in Hariss’ excellent cross two minutes later.It sealed Singapore’s biggest winning margin since beating Cambodia 5-0 in the 2008 Suzuki Cup and it was the first time they scored at least six times since thrashing Laos 11-0 at the 2007 Suzuki Cup.

The result put the Lions third on six points after three games, behind leaders Thailand and the Philippines, who each have seven after drawing 1-1 in the concurrent game. Victory against the Thais on Sunday in Bangkok – the final group match – will seal progress to the semi-finals; a draw will leave Singapore needing Indonesia to beat the Azkals in the other match while defeat means certain elimination.


Fandi is aware of the permutations but has faith that his charges will be able to triumph against the odds.


“The Thais will be the favourites but we will try to surprise them,” he said. “Whatever it is, we have to have an open mind and be positive and travel; we want to go there and get three points if possible.


“We hope they (Indonesia) do their best… but we won’t depend on anybody but ourselves, we will have to go out and fight for our lives.”


Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Irfan Fandi, Safuwan Baharudin, Zulfahmi Arifin, Gabriel Quak (Nazrul Nazari 55’), Hariss Harun (C), Izzdin Shafiq, Shakir Hamzah, Khairul Amri (Faris Ramli 65’), Ikhsan Fandi (Iqbal Hussain 90’).
Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Zaiful Nizam (GK), Faritz Hameed, Baihakki Khaizan, M. Anumanthan, Jacob Mahler, Yasir Hanapi, Adam Swandi.