Singapore Football

Young Lions salvage draw with late goal against Timor-Leste

S'pore can't make numerical advantage count after Timor-Leste's red card

AFC U-23 ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS

GROUP H

SINGAPORE 2

(Glenn Kweh 34, Jordan Emaviwe 90+5)

TIMOR-LESTE 2

(Elias Mesquita 39, Paulo Gali 42)

Ahead of Timor-Leste's clash with Singapore at the Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers, forward Paulo Gali - who had been in the centre of an age-fraud storm - had wanted people to focus on his football skills instead.

However, as speedy and tricky as he is, he just could not run away from the drama at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night as the game ended 2-2 - but not before he was sent packing.

In the 42nd minute, the 16-year-old put his team 2-1 up following a poor throw-in from the Young Lions in the Timor-Leste half.

Gali, who had been embroiled in controversy owing to the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup website listing him as a 22-year-old, celebrated wildly as he thumped his chest and pumped his fist in the direction of the Singapore fans in the 953-strong crowd, who had been heckling him during the match.

After a couple of minutes, fourth official Hussein Abo Yehia was seen talking to referee Majed Al Shamrani, who flashed the red card to Gali's disbelief.

Post-match, Timor-Leste coach Fabio da Silva said: "He did nothing wrong. If he did, I would be the first to tell him he deserved the red card.

"Overall, I'm very happy with the result and I expected this because we know what we can deliver on the field. If we had 11 men, we could have an even better performance."

The hosts just could not find a way to win despite a numerical and fitness advantage – TimorLeste frequently went down with cramps in the second half and used all five substitutes by the 73rd minute – and required a late equaliser by Jordan Emaviwe to avoid defeat by the Asean minnows.

Earlier in the game, forward Glenn Kweh had given Nazri Nasir’s side the lead after 34 minutes when he instinctively swept in Joel Chew’s corner kick that was parried into his path by the goalkeeper.

The lead lasted only five minutes as Timor-Leste equalised from a corner themselves.

Gali’s delivery went through to Elias Mesquita, who slotted in at the back post, before turning provider for the second goal.

Despite enterprising play from Kweh and Chew, the Young Lions could not create many clear chances, with Junildo Pereira saving from Farhan Zulkifli and Chew seeing a shot cleared off the line.

In the last minute of added time, however, centre-back Emaviwe lashed in from Chew’s pass to save his team’s blushes.

Nazri said: “I’m proud of our players who gave 100 per cent and didn’t give up.

“Our players executed our game plan, built from the back and applied high pressure. We created many chances, but just couldn’t score.

“The boys will learn from such international exposure after not playing at this level for two years because of the pandemic.”

The opening draw leaves Singapore joint-second but with a mountain to climb in Group H, with matches against the Philippines and defending champions South Korea on Thursday and Sunday respectively.

In the earlier game, South Korea beat Philippines 3-0 with three second-half goals to top the group. Only the top teams and four best runners-up from the 11 groups will make it to the tournament proper in Uzbekistan next year.

Singapore Football