Kallang roars again despite Lions' loss

Fans cheering as Singapore scores an equaliser against Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup match at the new National Stadium last night.
Fans cheering as Singapore scores an equaliser against Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup match at the new National Stadium last night.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

After four long years, Singapore's national football team returned to their favourite hunting ground yesterday and so did their fans, who turned the new National Stadium into a sea of red.

But on their Singapore Sports Hub debut, the Lions fell 1-2 to Thailand in their opening Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup match.

A total of 32,148 fans filled the red-and-white terraces of the arena to witness a rematch between the 2012 Cup finalists.

And although strikes by Mongkol Tossakrai and a Charyl Chappuis penalty in either half ensured there was no happy homecoming for the Lions, the Kallang Roar was in fine voice when Khairul Amri headed the defending AFF Cup champions level in the 19th minute.

Said civil servant Fadly Ramli, 32, who was among those cheering the home side on: "The atmosphere back in the old National Stadium was really mad. It had a lot of history and fans really enjoyed the place.

"It's still early days at the new stadium. The crowd is good, but it takes time to build up the atmosphere."

The stadium's much-maligned turf, which had been in the spotlight for its poor, sandy conditions in recent weeks, passed the test last night as neither team had complaints over the surface.

But with two more matches to come in the space of six days, the pitch will come under much scrutiny in the coming days.

Likewise the Lions who, under new coach Bernd Stange, impressed in spurts last night but after the final whistle found themselves at the bottom of Group B.

Myanmar and Malaysia drew 0-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in yesterday's earlier match.

Stange, who is German, will now have to help lift the spirits of his team and prepare for Wednesday's showdown against Myanmar, who are led by former Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic. Said Stange: "The pressure is a little bit higher now as we must win the next two games.

"We don't want luck against Myanmar; we just have to perform."

meng@sph.com.sg

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