A shoddy show in Riyadh

Lions coach Yoshida takes the blame for sluggish display in 4-0 loss to Palestine

The Lions (in blue) unravelled in a 10-minute spell in the first half for their heaviest loss under Tatsuma Yoshida.
The Lions (in blue) unravelled in a 10-minute spell in the first half for their heaviest loss under Tatsuma Yoshida.PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Dodgy in defence, meek in midfield and aimless in attack, Singapore's World Cup qualifying campaign resumed disastrously as they lost 4-0 to Palestine on Thursday night at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Group D qualifier was the Lions' first competitive outing in 18 months and it showed.

After an encouraging start to Tatsuma Yoshida's coronavirus-disrupted tenure in 2019, when they beat Palestine and Yemen 2-1 in previous qualifiers, the Japanese coach conceded this was the "worst performance" under him.

The 46-year-old took responsibility, saying: "The boys were nervous in the first half. They can do better. We could not show our full potential. If we did play with our full potential, the result would be changed.

"It is very disappointing and I am very sorry for the Singapore fans. But it's not on the players. It's because of my management. It's on me."

In the absence of injured striker Ikhsan Fandi and a recognised centre forward, the 159th-ranked Lions stuttered in attack, with Ikhsan's younger brother and debutant Ilhan cutting a lonely figure up front.

Singapore unravelled in a 10-minute spell in the first half for their heaviest loss under Yoshida's 10-match tenure. It was also their worst competitive setback since a 4-0 defeat by Syria in an Asian Cup qualifier in November 2013.

The Lions were already struggling to keep possession early on before Tamer Seyam scored the opener with a 20th-minute penalty, after Madhu Mohana brought down Oday Dabbagh.

More shoddy defending three minutes later saw Dabbagh pounce on Irfan Fandi's miscued clearance to double Palestine's lead with a shot that squirmed under Izwan Mahbud.

It raised questions over Izwan's selection after a lack of game time in the Thai League 1 this season.

World No. 104 Palestine made it 3-0 after 30 minutes with Seyam's second penalty after Irfan handled the ball in the box.

Yaser Hamed added a fourth five minutes from time as the Lions finished without a shot on target.

Palestine leapfrogged Singapore into third place in the group on goal difference. Both have seven points. Saudi Arabia lead with 11 points, Uzbekistan are two adrift, while Yemen are bottom with five points.

Yoshida's men next face the Uzbeks on Monday and the Saudis four days later to round off the qualifying campaign.

The group winners and the best five runners-up from the eight groups qualify for the Asian Cup and progress to the third round of qualifying for next year's World Cup. The remaining teams still can qualify for the Asian Cup via various other permutations.

Yoshida said the Lions will focus on the fight for third, adding: "We are very disappointed as a national team. I believe our possibility of (finishing second) is nearly zero."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2021, with the headline 'A shoddy show in Riyadh'. Subscribe