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Singapore undone by controversial penalty in 4-1 loss to China in World Cup qualifier

The Lions put up a brave performance against China in the Group C World Cup qualifier in Tianjin but were ultimately undone by a controversial second-half penalty and wayward defending as the hosts clinched a 4-1 victory.

Just five days ago at the National Stadium, world No. 156 Singapore showed a glimpse of what was possible under new coach Tsutomu Ogura’s reign as they showed heart, grit and intelligence to fight back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with the 88th-ranked Chinese.

Then, the Republic were unfortunate as they were denied a clear stoppage time penalty despite a tug on Safuwan Bahrudin in the penalty box.

This time, it was a call that went against the Lions that changed the game again. With the score at 1-1, referee Omar Mohamed Al-Ali from the United Arab Emirates pointed to the spot in the 65th minute after ruling that Jacob Mahler had fouled Gao Zhunyi as a freekick was whipped in.

Brazil-born winger Fei Nanduo stepped up to score the penalty.

China were reduced to 10 men in the 80th minute when Li Yuanyi was shown a straight red for a high challenge on substitute Joel Chew. The visitors were however, unable to enjoy the numerical advantage as the injured Chew could not continue and the Lions had already used up their five permitted substitutions.

While Singapore threw men forward to get the equaliser, they were punished when captain Wu Lei sprang clear on the counter to make it 3-1 in the 85th minute. In the 90th minute, Wu Lei turned provider when he squared the ball for Wei Shihao to tap in.

The Lions had performed creditably in the first half, dealing with a partisan home crowd and the absence of three players – the suspended centre-back pairing of Safuwan and Lionel Tan and injured central midfielder M. Anumanthan. All three started in the 2-2 draw.

China struck first in the 21st minute, when Zhang Yuning released his strike partner Wu Lei through the middle and the former Espanyol man ran clear before finishing calmly past Hassan Sunny in goal.

Singapore’s reply was immediate, though. From the kick-off, the ball was played back to captain Hariss Harun who launched it down the right channel for Ryhan Stewart. The midfielder found space and delivered a cross for Faris Ramli to head in the equaliser.

The defeat leaves Singapore bottom of Group C with one point from four matches while China are second with seven points. South Korea are top with 10 points after beating Thailand 3-0 in Bangkok in the later game. The Thais have four points.

The top two from each group qualify to the next round.

The Lions will have to wait till June for their next competitive fixtures, when they host South Korea at home on June 6 before travelling to face Thailand five days later.

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