National Team - Lions ● Dec 24, 2022
Lions edge Myanmar in AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 opener
Shah Shahiran (rightmost) celebrates, 24 December 2022
SINGAPORE, 24 DECEMBER 2022 – The 5,370 spectators at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night were made to go through a rollercoaster of emotions as Singapore got their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 campaign off to a winning start.
Takayuki Nishigaya had expected a stern test from a motivated Myanmar side looking to bounce back from their opening Group B defeat three days earlier and the visitors made things difficult indeed, although the Lions eventually ran out 3-2 victors.
“I am happy with the result,” he said at the post-match press conference. “We knew it would be a tough match as Myanmar is a tough team… When we conceded, we were able to overcome the negative situations and I am proud of my boys because of that.”
Ilhan Fandi celebrates, 24 December 2022
The Lions definitely had to dig deep, despite nearly going ahead when Ilhan Fandi met Shawal Anuar’s through ball and produced a lob that dropped just over the bar on seven minutes.
But the visitors settled into the match thereafter and forced Hafiz Nor to make a crucial clearance, before taking the lead in the 34th minute through captain Mg Mg Lwin as he kept his composure to finish off a swift counter-attack.
Ilhan would not pass up his next opportunity though. As Christopher van Huizen’s whipped in a precise cross from the left in the 45th minute, the 20-year-old met it at the far post with a downward header to level the match.
Four minutes into the second half, it seemed like the hosts’ fortunes had taken a turn for the better. Substitute Hami Syahin teed up Shah Shahiran for his first international goal – a 25-yard effort that nestled into the top right corner despite Myo Min Latt getting fingertips to the ball.
However, Myanmar refused to cower and Van Huizen had to make a vital interception with the goal gaping in the 57th minute. Zaiful Nizam then made a superb save to tip a header onto the bar, but was helpless to watch Mg Lwin smash in a loose ball in the 66th minute to peg the Lions back.
The Singapore custodian did have the final say by playing a part in the winning goal. Spotting Shawal upfront, Zaiful pinged a long goal-kick over the defence and into the path of the forward, who hammered the ball in off the post to put the Lions ahead again in the 74th minute.
Singapore celebrate Shawal Anuar’s winner, 24 December 2022
The topsy-turvy encounter could very well have taken another twist had two Myanmar efforts not flashed just wide even after Nanda Kyaw was sent off in the 81st minute and Nishigaya acknowledged that Singapore have to improve going forward.
“We had to make some early changes for tactical reasons as we wanted to play more aggressively,” he said. “Of course, this (the defending) is a point to improve; we will do analysis and look to improve as much as possible before the next match.
“Of course, there is room to grow; this is the first game and we can still improve, game by game. This competition is tough, with a game every two days, so we need to focus on recovery now.”
Ryhan Stewart on the ball, 24 December 2022
The Japanese also had praise for tournament debutants Zaiful, Van Huizen, Shah, Ilhan, Ryhan Stewart and Joshua Pereira, noting: “They did not show nerves and I hope they will keep improving.”
The Lions will face Laos next in their second group match on Tuesday, 27 December at the New Laos National Stadium in Vientiane.
Singapore: Zaiful Nizam (GK), Hariss Harun (C), Shakir Hamzah, M. Anumanthan (Joshua Pereira 54’), Hafiz Nor (Ryhan Stewart 46’), Shah Shahiran, Shahdan Sulaiman, Christopher van Huizen (Nazrul Nazari 67’), Ilhan Fandi (Amy Recha 54’), Faris Ramli (Hami Syahin 46’), Shawal Anuar.
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Amirul Adli, Song Uiyoung, Farhan Zulkifli, Zulfahmi Arifin.
Singapore line-up, 24 December 2022 (Credit: SPORTFIVE)