SINGAPORE - Playing in their first football match since an unsuccessful campaign at last November's AFF Suzuki Cup, Singapore were beaten 2-1 by Afghanistan in an international friendly in Doha on Thursday (Friday, 12am Singapore time).
It was national coach V. Sundramoorthy's first game in charge of the Lions since receiving a two-year contract extension last Monday, but the latest defeat will not provide much relief for the 51-year-old tactician.
Despite fielding a new defensive pairing of 19-year-old Irfan Fandi and utility player Safuwan Baharudin, 25, it took just under four minutes for the Afghans to beat Singapore's rearguard as both teams were still getting used to the blustery conditions at the Al-Sailiyah Sports Club.
Geylang International's Shawal Anuar scored his first international goal in the 47th minute to equalise but Mustafa Azadzoy scored in the 58th minute to put Afghanistan back in front.
Singapore will need to regroup quickly as they travel to Bahrain for their 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying third-round opening Group E match against the hosts on Tuesday (March 28).
Singapore are aiming to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 1984, when they qualified automatically as hosts. They are drawn in the same group as Turkmenistan and Chinese Taipei.
While Sundram suffered another defeat, his counterpart Otto Pfister got off to a winning start in his first game in charge of Afghanistan since being appointed late last month.
Pfister, 79, is a German who has enjoyed plenty of success during his coaching career. The former Ghana coach won the Africa Manager of the Year award in 1992, and led Saudi Arabia and Togo at the 1998 and 2006 World Cup respectively.
Afghanistan will play Vietnam next Tuesday in their Group C opening match. They are drawn in the same group as Jordan and Cambodia.