Football: 1-0 win against Cambodia bolsters Lions

Yasir Hanapi (centre, no 24) celebrates his goal with Faris Ramli (second from right) and Hariss Harun (left) in the 1-0 victory against Cambodia last night. The strike was the first international goal of Yasir's career.
Yasir Hanapi (centre, no 24) celebrates his goal with Faris Ramli (second from right) and Hariss Harun (left) in the 1-0 victory against Cambodia last night. The strike was the first international goal of Yasir's career.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Three-game goal drought ends with 1-0 win against Cambodia after error-strewn first half

Singapore 1

Cambodia 0

The Singapore national team will head into this week's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup with more questions than answers.

Even though they won their first match in seven games, the Lions put up a stuttering performance in an unconvincing 1-0 friendly victory over Cambodia at Bishan Stadium last night.

It was their final tune-up before they leave for Manila tomorrow where they will start their AFF Cup campaign on Friday with an opener against co-hosts Philippines.

Thanks to Yasir Hanapi's 70th-minute strike, Singapore ended their goalless run of three games.

But the first half was a disaster as passes went astray and defensive errors surfaced.

WE SHOULD BE OK

We played well (in friendlies) against Syria and Bahrain and we have the mental strength and focus going there.

V. SUNDRAMOORTHY, Singapore coach, says his players are ready for the AFF Cup.

National caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy admitted that it was a 45-minute period to forget.

The tactician said: "We don't want to look at the first half. It is a one-off thing. We were losing the ball easily."

But as the Angkor Warriors began to feel the strain of playing their second match in as many days - Cambodia beat Singapore's Under-22 side 2-0 on Saturday - Sundram made three changes at half-time.

Sundram said of the improvements seen in the second half: "We kept the ball better, I saw better mobility and retention of the ball, and we made some penetrative runs. We looked dangerous."

Cambodia's South Korean coach Lee Tae Hoon noted that the Lions still have room for improvement, saying: "Singapore is not at 100 per cent condition now. Singapore side is strong, but they should be improving the team balance a bit more.

"Many times, the defenders (tend to) stay (deep). I think this is an old Singapore habit."

The victory gave Singapore a much-needed morale boost as they travel to Manila still needing to polish their possession game and their finishing.

Although the AFF Cup rules state that each team can register 23 players, the Lions are travelling with 24 men, with Sundram making a final decision on who to drop just before the first game against the Azkals.

But against Cambodia, the coach added right-back Nazrul Nazari and midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin to the bench but neither played any part in yesterday's match.

While Sundram seems undecided on his final squad list, he insists that his players are prepared.

He said: "We played well (in friendlies) against Syria and Bahrain and we have the mental strength and focus going there, we should be OK.

"This win is good for our morale, but it counts for nothing and we don't get three points from this. The most important thing is our game against the Philippines."

But one player who could not stop smiling last night was 27-year-old Yasir, who was delighted to finally score his first international goal on his 12th appearance.

He said: "All of us knew that we needed a win badly and I'm happy for the team. I wouldn't say that this was the best goal that I've scored, but it helps to boost everyone's confidence before the competition."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'Victory bolsters Lions'. Print Edition | Subscribe