Suzuki Cup: Ikhsan Fandi scores twice as S'pore off to dream start with 3-0 win over Myanmar
The Lions got off to a dream start at this year's Suzuki Cup as they beat a hapless Myanmar 3-0 at the National Stadium on Sunday (Dec 5) night.
After a cagey opening 30 minutes, Tatsuma Yoshida's men found their attacking verve in a devastating 11-minute spell, scoring three times before the interval as the Kallang Roar and Kallang Wave returned along with 7,588 fans.
On his 98th international appearance, 30-year-old defender Safuwan Baharudin headed in Shahdan Sulaiman's corner in the 34th minute to the delight of the home crowd.
Five minutes later, South Korea-born midfielder Song Ui-young launched a counter attack, playing through Faris Ramli, who then threaded the ball to Ikhsan Fandi to fire in from an angle.
The hosts were relentless, as was striker Ikhsan, who got his second of the night thanks to another pin-point set-piece from Shahdan.
It was the 22-year-old Ikhsan's 10th goal on his 20th appearance for his country. He was later named Man of the Match.
Coincidentally, he and Safuwan were also on the scoresheet the last time Singapore hosted an Asean Football Federation championship match in 2018 when they beat Timor-Leste 6-1 in a group game.
The second half was less eventual though Safuwan did threaten with another header that was cleared off the line in the 79th minute.
The Republic are top of Group A on three points, ahead on goal difference from five-time champions Thailand who beat Timor-Leste 2-0 in the earlier kick off.
The Lions next face the Philippines on Wednesday.
After the slow start, Singapore clicked into gear and there were plenty of positives for Yoshida to build on like Shahdan’s dead-ball deliveries as well as Song’s box-to-box performance in his second cap after receiving his citizenship in August.
Crucially, in Ikhsan, the Lions have an effective presence up front they have needed since Aleksandar Duric retired from international football in 2012.
He was a thorn in Myanmar’s defence with his physical strength, turn of pace and clinical finishing.
Defensively, Singapore were largely untroubled although they did look a little shaky when under attack from wide positions.
Yoshida and his players deserve credit for the bright start, but will know they face a much tougher task against the Philippines, who have called up numerous European-based players.
Nevertheless, an opening win and three points represents a job well done for the Lions. If they collect wins against the Azkals and then Timor-Leste, the lowest-ranked team here at world No. 194 on Dec 14, they will be in their first Suzuki Cup semi-final since they won their fourth title in 2012.