Fandi's Lions off to a winning start
All-local side fight tooth and nail to secure first victory in the Suzuki Cup since 2014
|(Hariss Harun 37)
Singapore got off to a winning start in their Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Indonesia at the National Stadium on Friday (Nov 9).
Written off by pundits and fans, Fandi Ahmad's all-local Lions fought tooth and nail against the 2016 finalists, who are boosted by former Dutch youth international Stefano Lilipaly in midfield and Brazil-born striker Beto Goncalves in attack.
But in front of 30,783 fans, the Lions, who lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, put up a disciplined showing in defence and did not allow Indonesia any clear chances at goal.
Singapore midfielder Yasir Hanapi, playing on the right flank, could have opened accounts in the ninth minute after being threaded through by left-back Shakir Hamzah, but he shot straight at Indonesia goalkeeper Andritany Ardhiyasa.
Indonesia nearly stole a goal six minutes later when Lions centre-back Irfan Fandi headed against his own bar.
But the Lions broke the deadlock in the 37th minute following some good work from winger Gabriel Quak down the right. Quak whipped in a cross with his left foot which was cleared by the Indonesian defence, but only as far as skipper Hariss Harun, who slammed home the loose ball.
The Lions could have scored more, but forward Faris Ramli shot straight at Ardhiyasa in the 40th minute, and saw his lob over the goalkeeper hit the bar in the 51st minute.
The Indonesians piled on the pressure in the second half, but could find no way past the Singapore backline.
Tempers flared and frustrations showed, with Indonesian defender Putu Gede Juni Antara sent off for a second yellow card, as the Lions held on for their first win in the tournament since 2014.
The Lions will face the Philippines in their next Group B game on Tuesday away in Bacolod, before taking on Timor Leste at the National Stadium on Nov 21 and Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Nov 25.
In Friday's other Group B game, Thailand thumped Timor Leste 7-0 at the Rajamangala, with six goals coming from Adisak Kraisorn.