Hong Kong 2 Singapore 1
Singapore did not get the winning start that they wanted to their overseas three-match training campaign as they fell 1-2 to Hong Kong in a FIFA international friendly at Mongkok Stadium on Friday night.
The Lions drew 0-0 with their opponents back in September in a friendly at the Hougang Stadium but this time, Hong Kong broke the deadlock after just seven minutes through striker Xu Deshuai who sent the ball past Izwan Mahbud after capitalising on a defensive lapse.
Singapore recovered quickly to give the hosts a couple of scares as they went in search of the equaliser. Shahdan Sulaiman and Sahil Suhaimi combined well in the 11th minute to create an opportunity for Shahfiq Ghani but the latter sent his shot over the bar. Faris Ramli then tried from distance but his effort was headed out for a corner.
Both teams were evenly matched after that and national coach Bernd Stange had reason to smile as he watched his men comfortably playing the one-touch, short-passing and pressing game that he has always advocated.
However, it was Singapore who entered the break feeling thankful that they were not 0-2 down after Izwan pulled off a fine save in the 37th minute to deny Hong Kong defender Andy Nagalein.
But the hosts were not to be denied in front of their 4,000-strong home support as Xu turned provider this time, setting up the opportunity for midfielder Ju Yingzhi to score Hong Kong's second.
Hong Kong almost made it 3-0 when they missed an open goal in the 61st minute. Singapore too missed a golden chance in the 72nd minute when second-half substitute Khairul Amri headed Fazrul Nawaz's cross over the bar.
The Lions eventually pulled a goal back in the 93rd minute through a penalty. The referee pointed to the spot after Safuwan Bahrudin was brought down in the Hong Kong box and Shahril Ishak, who came on in the 70th minute, scored to make it 2-1.
However, that goal also proved to be the last kick of the game which means that Singapore have now lost thrice to Hong Kong away in the past three years. The Lions were edged out 1-0 in 2012 and 2013.
Despite the defeat, national coach Bernd Stange was not disappointed with the Lions' performance.
Said the 66-year-old German who also gave Tampines Rovers midfielder Ismadi Mukhtar his first international cap: "There are always two things to consider - the result and the performance. I think what we delivered today wasn't so bad because we dominated most of the game and played exciting football.
"But we allowed Hong Kong a big advantage through two crucial moments, and made it difficult for us to come back. But what we delivered later wasn't so bad, and that was why I am not so disappointed too."
"Hong Kong was strong, was good for counter attacks.. It was a good game for the fans. It was up and down, it was tough, there were battles and challenges and we are in a good way."
Stange added that he was pleased to see key seniors Shahril, Shaiful Esah and Amri back in action after recovering from injuries. "I am very happy to have the team together to go ahead for Suzuki Cup," he said.
But despite not being disappointed, Stange acknowledged that the Lions must now win their second away friendly against Macau to get things back on track as the record-four time Asean champions continue their preparations to defend the Suzuki Cup in November.
The Macau game will be played on 14 October in Macau.