Singapore toil to first win in seven games

A second-half strike from substitute Yasir Hanapi helped the Lions to a 1-0 win over Cambodia, a result which snapped a six-game winless streak. 

Still, it was a far from convincing performance from Singapore, who only showed up in the second half. 

In fact, they could count their blessings for not trailing going into the break, after Cambodia outplayed them for almost the entire first half. 

While Singapore registered the first chance of the game in the fourth minute, which Hafiz Sujad fired wide after good work from Khairul Amri to chase down a long ball, they had to wait until  the 40th minute for their next chance. 

Instead, it was the incisive Cambodians, who registered seven shots in the first half, who looked more likely to break the deadlock. 

Prak Mony Udom saw an effort go narrowly wide, before Chan Vathanaka lashed one over after Baihakki Khaizan had given the ball away cheaply. 

You can lose all the friendlies. Most importantly, it’s the first game against Philippines [that counts].

- V. Sundramoorthy

In the 22nd minute, Baihakki, who was earning his 128th cap, passed straight to a Cambodian once more under no pressure. Immediately Vathanaka attacked down the left, before firing against the underside of the crossbar from a tight angle. 

That mistake saw Baihakki pay the price as well, with Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy taking him off for Madhu Mohana the next minute, although it was established that the veteran was feeling unwell prior to the game.

Singapore finally had a shot on target only in the 41st minute, a meek header by Safuwan Baharudin off Hafiz’s corner.

Vathanaka came close to breaking the deadlock once again, this time through a free-kick, which he forced Hassan Sunny into a tipping save. 

The Lions almost went into the break with an undeserved lead though. A poor clearance from a Singapore corner saw the ball roll out to the waiting Faris Ramli, and the winger unleased a powerful strike that cannoned off the crossbar before bouncing clear. 

Sundram made a triple substitution at the break, including bringing on both Shahdan and Yasir Hanapi, and that immediately brought about a fluidity for Singapore. 

Almost immediately, Shahdan created a chance for Amri, but the latter’s header landed on the roof of the net. 

Sahil found the sidenetting with a first-time shot in the 67th minute, while Faris Ramli dragged an effort wide from eight yards out after doing well to create space for himself. 

Cambodia, who had been pinned back in their own half for most of the second period, had a rare sight on goal, but Sokpheng couldn’t keep his effort down. 

The hosts finally went ahead in the 70th minute through Yasir. A Shakir Hamzah cross was punched out weakly by Um Sereirath towards Yasir, and the midfielder needed no further invitation to slam it into the bottom corner. 

Sahil could have doubled the lead after Singapore worked the ball nicely to deep inside the box, but he slipped while pulling the trigger. 

Substitutes Tit Dina and Khuon La Boravy were presented with decent opportunities for Cambodia, yet they fail to find the target instead.

That allowed Singapore to hold on for the win eventually, which was their first since the 1-0 win over Myanmar back in June. 

Sundram pointed out that “a win is a win” still, although he admits that the result in a friendly counts for nothing. 

“You can win all the friendlies or lose all the friendlies. Most importantly, it’s the first game against Philippines, second game against Thailand, third game against Indonesia,” the trainer told reporters after the match. 

“We need to try fix [our mistakes] and compete against those three teams.”

Sundram also added that the team will need both “mental focus and awareness” when the AFF Suzuki Cup comes around, and that they will need to “turn up there and show that we are ready”. 

Cambodia coach Lee Taehoon feels that Singapore need more work on conditioning, though he feels Sunday's victors can still compete in the Suzuki Cup. 

This is after he reminded onlookers that his side had already played a match the previous night, and had no stamina for the second half. 

“We already played last night against Singapore U22 team, so I had to rest some players,” Lee said. 

“I’m not surprised [that we dominated] … I think Singapore is not at 100 per cent for their conditioning. They should improve the team balance … but Singapore are still strong.” 

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo