National Team - Lions ● Oct 13, 2023
Singapore takes a slender lead going into second leg of first round qualifier of World Cup 2026
First-half goals from defenders Christopher van Huizen (right) and Jacob Mahler (left) put the Lions ahead before Guam captain Jason Cunliffe scored one for the visitors in the 90th minute, October 2023.
SINGAPORE 12 OCTOBER 2023 – Singapore and Guam faced off at the National Stadium in Singapore on Thursday, with a crucial ticket to the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 up for grabs. The Lions, guided by Head Coach Takayuki Nishigaya, welcomed the Noblemen of Guam, under the leadership of Ross Awa. With Singapore ranked 157th and Guam at 201st, the match promised to be an intriguing contest especially when the last encounter between the two nations in a 2015 friendly saw them battling out a 2 – 2 draw at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
A crowd of 10,355 fans filled the National Stadium, creating an electric atmosphere for this pivotal World Cup qualifier. The first-round qualifier is in the form of a two-legged playoff, with the return leg scheduled for next Tuesday, 17 October 2023 in Guam. The winner of these two matches will earn the opportunity to face South Korea, China, and Thailand in Round 2, which begins next month.
Christopher Van Huizen scored the first goal for Singapore in the 35th minute, October 2023.
The first half was a gripping affair, with both teams displaying their intent. Singapore started on the front foot, creating numerous chances which went begging. In the 35th minute, the breakthrough finally came, as Lionel Tan’s pinpoint pass found fellow club teammate Chris Van Huizen, who displayed sublime technique to fire a finesse shot into the back of the Guam net, much to the delight of the home crowd. Just five minutes later, the Lions doubled their advantage when off a corner, Jacob Mahler found the net in a chaotic penalty area, putting Singapore 2-0 ahead.
Midfielder Song Uiyoung (in red jersey) gave chase to the ball with Guam defender Dane Jacob Abastas Agustin (in blue jersey) closely followed, October 2023.
The second half saw the Lions continuing to pile on the pressure, as Song Uiyoung’s corner in the 52nd minute found Shawal Anuar, whose header was impressively parried by the Guam goalkeeper. In an unfortunate turn of events, the ball ricocheted off Lionel, who had no time to react, missing a golden opportunity. The Lions’ domination was evident in the number of corners won – by the 71st minute, Singapore had earned 10 corners compared to Guam’s none. However, the Lions did not capitalise on their supremacy which gave Guam a glimmer of hope in the dying moments of the match. Their captain, Jason Cunliffe, struck a superb freekick into the top left corner of the Hassan’s net in the 90th minute. The evergreen statesman had also scored against Singapore back in 2015 and clearly relished the goal.
Man-of-the-Match Jacob Mahler scored the second goal for Singapore, October 2023.
Despite the late goal conceded, Singapore managed to hold on to a 2-1 victory, taking a slim advantage into the second leg of the World Cup qualifier. Man of the match, Jacob voiced the team’s determination, “It’s never nice to be in control of the game and then concede a goal in the last minute. But we’re confident that we can go to Guam and get the result done there.”
Coach Nishigaya praised the home fans for creating an electric atmosphere: “The fans created a wonderful atmosphere tonight, and I want to thank everyone who came down to support the team. This is the type of atmosphere that we want to be playing in every home game, and we want to advance to Round 2 so that the fans can continue to cheer on the players when we play again at the National Stadium.”
Coach Nishigaya thanked the fans in the post-match press conference for their full support for the Lions at the National Stadium on Thursday night (12 Oct), October 2023.
With a ticket to the next round hanging in the balance, the Lions will need to maintain their focus to ensure they get the job done in Guam. The return leg promises to be a highly contested match, and fans of both nations will be eagerly awaiting the outcome.
Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), M. Anumanthan, Lionel Tan, Jacob Mahler, Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Hafiz Nor 61’), Christopher Van Huizen (Amirul Adli 90+1’), Hariss Harun (C), Song Uiyoung (Zulfahmi Arifin 77’), Hami Syahin (Adam Swandi 61’), Shah Shahiran, Shawal Anuar (Ilhan Fandi 61’),
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Glenn Kweh, Farhan Zulkifli, Shahdan Sulaiman, Daniel Goh, Iqbal Hussain
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