Nervy start to Yoshida's reign as Lions' coach
Singapore take the lead against Solomon Islands, then trail twice before snatching 4-3 victory
|(Faris Ramli 4, Shahdan Sulaiman 68, Gabriel Quak 77, Hariss Harun 86)||(Gagame Feni 48, Andrew Abba 58, Benjamin Totori 75)|
Tatsuma Yoshida's reign as the Singapore football coach got off to a nervy start as the Lions laboured to a 4-3 win over the Solomon Islands in a friendly at the National Stadium on Saturday (June 8).
Yoshida was all smiles at the final whistle, having recorded a victory in his first game in charge of the Lions, but the Japanese tactician is likely to spend Sunday – his 45th birthday – mulling over their defensive errors before their next friendly against Myanmar on Tuesday.
The former J-League coach, who had only four training sessions with the team after his May 30 appointment, had captain Hariss Harun to thank for bagging an 86th-minute winner, after the Lions fought back from trailing twice.
Starting with a 4-1-4-1 formation, the Lions drew first blood in the fourth minute when Faris Ramli headed in a cross from Shahdan Sulaiman, after some good work down the left involving Adam Swandi.
They could even have gone into the break with a 2-0 lead, but just fizzled off as the game wore on.
Their momentum did not pick up after the break and instead, it was the Solomon Islands who began to impose themselves on the match.
The visitors equalised just three minutes into the second half through Gagame Feni, who cut in from the left flank, inside right-back Faritz Hameed, before firing into the far post.
It was clear that the Lions were eager to try the quick-passing style espoused by their new coach, often playing one- or two-touch football, but it was through two sloppy touches that the Solomon Islands scored their next two goals.
First, a poor touch by Adam just outside the Lions' box allowed Solomon Islands midfielder Joses Nawo to play the ball through to forward Andrew Abba, who unleashed a piledriver past Izwan Mahbud.
The Lions clawed back to make it 2-2 in the 68th minute through a Shahdan Sulaiman free-kick that eluded everyone in the box, but another poor pass, this time from left-back Zulfahmi Arifin who had been redeployed to midfield, allowed Solomon Islands to surge forward and score through captain Benjamin Totori in the 75th minute.
The second-half introduction of Khairul Amri gave the Lions fresh impetus, and the veteran striker made an impact by laying off the ball for Gabriel Quak to equalise in the box in the 77th minute.
Amri was not done yet. His stinging attempt at goal was palmed away by Solomon Islands goalkeeper Philip Mango, leading to the corner from which Hariss bagged the winner.
Quak took the corner, floating the ball in front of goal where it was met by the head of Shakir Hamzah.
Mango failed to collect the ball cleanly and a lurking Hariss needed no second invitation to fire in the loose ball and ensure a winning start to Yoshida's tenure.
In the end, the Lions got the job done, earning the victory to help them move up from their current world ranking of 160.
But as 139th-ranked Solomon Islands proved, there' still much work for Yoshida's Lions ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, which start in three months' time.