FAS ● Jun 19, 2023
Singapore left to rue missed opportunities after being held to a 1-1 draw by Solomon Islands
Hariss Harun (jersey number 14) in action against Solomon Islands.
SINGAPORE, 18 JUNE 2023 – It was a case of déjà vu for supporters of the Singapore National Football Team as the Lions had to settle for another draw in three days, against a team from the Oceania region in an international ‘A’ friendly match held at the National Stadium. This time round, it was Solomon Islands who snatched a late equalizer to tie the game at 1 – 1 and deny the hosts a victory in front of their passionate home fans.
Coach Takayuki Nishigaya made seven changes to his starting line-up from the one that drew 2-2 against Papua New Guinea just two nights earlier on Friday with the likes of Captain Hariss Harun, M. Anumanthan, Syazwan Buhari, Joel Chew, Hami Syahin and Daniel Goh coming into a team that showcased a mix of experience and youth. Tanjong Pagar midfielder Naqiuddin Eunos, who made his international debut against the Papuans after coming on as a substitute, was given a vote of confidence by his coach and started the game to earn his 2nd international cap.
Up against a side ranked 24 places above them in the FIFA World Rankings, the 158th placed Lions started off brightly and dictated the proceedings right from kick-off. Balestier Khalsa’s Daniel Goh provided several of the attacking impetus as he showed incredible wing-play to create chances for his team-mates and drawing fouls from the opponents. One such foul led to Singapore taking a well-deserved lead in the 31st minute. Adam Swandi launched the resulting free kick into the penalty box, and it was headed on by Irfan Najeeb for Shawal Anuar to pounce and strike the ball into the back of the net for his second goal in as many games. The Lion City Sailors forward was in red-hot form for club and country as he brought his international goal tally to 8 goals. He could have notched his 9th and 10th goals in a space of two minutes had firstly, the crossbar not deny his goal-bound header in the 37th minute and the assistant referee not flagged for offside after he put the ball in the back of the net a minute later.
Solomon Islands managed to manufacture a goal chance of their own in the latter stages of the half but was thwarted by Syazwan who had been largely untested for the duration of the match. He pulled off a fine save to deny Solomon forward Joses Nawo as the half ended with Singapore deservedly leading by a goal to nil.
The Singapore fans supporting the Lions against Solomon Islands.
The second half started with pacy forward Amy Recha coming in to replace Joel Chew as Coach Nishigaya looked to inject fresh attacking options in search of a second goal to ensure his first ever victory on home soil. The Hougang United attacker was to combine well with Shawal on several opportunities but was unable to capitalize on his team’s dominance in possession. It would soon come back to haunt the Lions as Solomon Islands started to create more chances as they searched for an equalizer.
With Singapore carelessly losing possession in the middle of the park, the Bonitos were able to pile on the pressure and generate several goal scoring opportunities. In the 70th minute, a cross found Norman Ngahu and his looping header was expertly tipped over by Syazwan. The custodian was on hand to pull off another excellent save from a close-range effort by Bobby Leslie a couple of minutes later as Singapore hung on to their slender lead. Solomon Islands however were to be rewarded for their endeavors as they grabbed a equalizer in the closing stages of the match. Skipper Nawo played a one-two with Mohammad Ali before unleashing a shot that took a wicked deflection off Lions defender Lionel Tan and nestled into the bottom corner of the goal past a hapless Syazwan.
As the clock ticked down, the home side tried but could not find the elusive winning goal. The match concluded with a 1-1 scoreline as Singapore ended the June international break with two draws in as many games.
Coach Nishigaya at the post-match conference.
Coach Nishigaya refused to let the results dampen his assessment of the players and their performances from the two friendlies. “I am satisfied with the performances of the players that I have been able to call upon in the March and June international windows especially the 10 new players, as I wanted to see if they can be integrated and perform at a higher level if called upon. They have given me a high level of performance for the national standard. But on a higher level of international competition, they need to absorb their experiences from the matches and apply them in the future.”
He further added that he was looking forward to the upcoming September window to use the final two friendlies of the year to lock in the best players to be in the squad for the Asian World Cup qualifiers in October. “We should be able to call upon our key players such as the three Fandi brothers (Irfan, Ikhsan and Ilhan), Shahdan Sulaiman, Song Uiyeong, Jacob Mahler and Ryhan Stewart to be in contention for places in the National Team and the fans can look forward to a stronger team going into the qualifiers.”
Singapore : Syazwan Buhari (GK), Irfan Najeeb, Lionel Tan, M Anumanthan, Hariss Harun, Adam Swandi (Shakir Hamzah 90+2’), Daniel Goh (Hafiz Nor 63’), Naqiuddin Eunos (Ho Wai Loon 77’), Hami Syahin (Shah Shahiran 63’), Joel Chew (Amy Recha 46’), Shawal Anuar (Glenn Kweh 77’)
Unused subs: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Hassan Sunny (GK), Fathullah Rahmat, Faris Ramli, Harhys Stewart, Jordan Vestering
Click the link to watch the match highlights: https://youtu.be/_e7pYinrpZM
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