Singapore 2 Cambodia 1: Unspectacular victory keeps Lions on track

Singapore stayed on course in their quest to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup after a narrow 2-1 victory against fellow Southeast Asian nation Cambodia at the National Stadium on Tuesday night.

Faris Ramli and Fazrul Nawaz (above) scored in each half to put the Lions two goals up, before Sos Suhana pulled one back for the visitors midway through the second half.

However the home side held on for the victory to claim all three points in the crucial World Cup/Asian Cup Group E encounter.

There were massive changes to the Singapore starting 11 after a lacklustre performance in the 1-0 win against Afghanistan last Thursday.

Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss Harun returned from suspension, Shakir Hamzah and Faris came in for the injured Shaiful Esah and Hafiz Sujad, while Sahil Suhaimi replaced Fazrul Nawaz on the right flank.

The much-changed Lions side started the game in fine fashion as it surged forward at every opportunity.

The first chance fell to Khairul Amri via a Madhu Mohana long throw in the eighth minute, but the hotshot was unable to get a clean connection inside the box.

Safuwan then went on a barnstorming run a minute later to set up Faris, but the latter was only able to drag his left-footed shot wide of the post.

The 23-year-old was to make amends on 16 minutes by scoring the opening goal, as he coolly tapped home from close range after Safuwan had expertly flicked on another Madhu long throw.

The Cambodians could have hit back just six minutes later when a right-wing cross caused some chaos in the Singapore box, but Suhana’s goal-bound snapshot was somehow parried by Izwan Mahbud.

Singapore continued their dominance for the rest of the first half, but failed to put their chances away.

Injury to insult as Khairul appeared to hurt his hamstring in his penalty miss

Sahil twice put in superb crosses for Amri and Shakir respectively, but the duo was unable to put headers on target.

The home side had an excellent chance to go two up right before the half-time break when Nub Tola was adjudged to have handled Safuwan’s fierce close-range drive.

However the resulting penalty proved to be a double whammy for the Lions, as Amri seemingly pulled his hamstring in the run-up before seeing his tame effort parried by Cambodia keeper Um Sereirath.

The 30-year-old was then taken off on a stretcher, with Fazrul replacing him after the restart and making an instant impact.

Within two minutes of his arrival, the Warriors FC man seized on a poor back pass by Nhim Sovannara before curling expertly past the onrushing Sereirath from just outside the area to double the Lions’ advantage. 

The goal seemed to have put Bernd Stange’s side in cruise control, but the plucky Cambodians refused to cower and got their rewards on 66 minutes.

Chan Vathanaka skinned Shakir down the right flank, before squaring across the six-yard box for Suhana to squeeze home a first-time finish past the stranded Izwan.

Stange then decided to introduce some fresh legs by bringing on first Yasir Hanapi and then Shahril Ishak as Singapore started to run down the clock.

Time eventually ran out for the visitors as the Lions claimed their second win in as many games to accumulate 10 points from five qualifying fixtures.

That should set Stange’s side up nicely for the double-header against Japan and Syria in November at the same venue. 

Tickets to Singapore's upcoming home World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Syria are now on sale. Get yours from Sports Hub Tix, by calling the hotline at +65 6333 5000/+65 3158 7888, by visiting the Singapore Indoor Stadium box office or dropping into any SingPost outlet islandwide.

Photos: Weixiang Lim/Stefanus Ian, FourFourTwo