Fandis are a happy family

Irfan Fandi (far left) putting Singapore 2-0 up in the Merlion Cup game against the Philippines at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
Irfan Fandi (far left) putting Singapore 2-0 up in the Merlion Cup game against the Philippines at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Coach pleased as both sons score in 3-0 win; Thais await in tomorrow's final

Fandi Ahmad was a proud coach and father, after watching his Singapore Under-22 side deliver a composed 3-0 Merlion Cup win over the Philippines last night with his two sons among the goalscorers.

The semi-final win sends the Young Lions into tomorrow's final against Thailand, who beat Indonesia 2-1 earlier at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.

"They both just came back and it's good that they helped the team," said Fandi, 57, of his sons, who are both already full internationals. They're team players."

"We had some restrictions so we couldn't play Ikhsan. But when he came in he made a lot of difference, (creating) openings for others.

"I'm very happy for Irfan and Ikhsan, this shows they are at a good level. Hopefully, they can spur the other boys to work harder as well."

Given striker Ikhsan, 20, had arrived from Norway on Tuesday and was jet-lagged, it was no surprise that Fandi opted to bench his younger son.

Despite the absence of Ikhsan, who has netted four goals in 11 games for Norwegian second-tier club Raufoss this season, the Republic took the lead in the first half through Amiruldin Asraf.

The Home United forward stole possession from defender Pete Forrosuelo in the penalty area and easily scored past goalkeeper Michael Asong in the 26th minute.

The hosts looked threatening on set pieces and captain Irfan, 21, was an obvious danger with his 1.88m frame. The centre-back almost scored in the 40th minute but his downward header hit the upright.

Fandi's eldest son made no mistake, though, in the 62nd minute and guided his header past Asong to double Singapore's lead.

Six minutes later, Ikhsan, a half-time substitute, completed a swift counter-attack with a simple tap-in after midfielder Daniel Goh crossed from the right.

Ikhsan was taken off in the 79th minute to preserve him for the Thais, who will pose a stiffer challenge than the Filipinos.

Fandi said: "We are very happy with the results and we get to the final. The beginning stages, we didn't play to our plan and, some of the boys, you could see the jitters in them, especially the younger ones.

"I'm very happy that after the first 20 minutes we picked up our game and started playing football and creating chances from the set pieces, which are our strength.

"But we need to improve on our decision-making and, when we're under pressure, we tend to clear the ball unnecessarily. We should be more composed with the ball.

"Defensively we're still not that tight because we don't really train together, so that needs work."

Man of the Match Irfan added that their time in Mongolia, where Singapore had encouraging performances at the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers in March, helped them improve.

"Our players are more experienced now after coming back from Mongolia. I think we fought even harder and we managed to keep cool and play football."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline 'Fandis are a happy family'. Print Edition | Subscribe