SINGAPORE - It was not exactly the Kallang Roar, and the National Stadium was again nowhere near full capacity. But if the Lions can continue their renaissance and play enterprising football under Tatsuma Yoshida, it will not be long before the fabled fever pitch is back.
World No. 157 Singapore may have lost 3-1 to 88th-ranked Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday (Oct 15), but they would have won over many fans with their gutsy display as they rebuild for the future.
In front of 12,547 fans, Yoshida's men did not cower against the central Asians. Once again showing his tactical flexibility, he deployed the Lions in a 4-5-1 formation, with playmaker Zulfahmi Arifin standing in at left-back while skipper and defensive midfielder Hariss Harun played an advanced role behind lone striker Ikhsan Fandi.
Winger Hafiz Nor nearly gave the hosts a shock lead when he fizzed a 10th-minute curler that drew a smart stop from Eldorbek Suyunov.
Five minutes later, the visitors took the lead through Odil Ahmedov's piercing free kick but Singapore continued to take the game to the Uzbeks.
They were denied a stonewall penalty in the 44th minute when Farrukh Sayfiev miskicked the ball on to his own arm in the box, but referee Shen Yinhao was unmoved.
But justice was served in the next minute when Ikhsan towered over his marker to head in Shahdan Sulaiman's cross for his seventh international goal in 16 caps before the Lions entered half-time to a rousing ovation.
The second half resumed in the same vein with some nice passages of play from Singapore, as Shawal Anuar just failed to reach Hafiz's penetrative pass.
Six minutes after the restart, Eldor Shomurodov was left unmarked and duly headed in Sayfiev's cross for the winner.
The Lions got out of jail when Shomurodov rounded Izwan in the 54th minute only to shoot wide.
Willed on by the appreciative home crowd, they continued to try to find an equaliser via crosses and long-range efforts, but were just not clinical enough as Shomurodov got his brace in added time, latching on to Ikromjon Alibaev's lovely through ball before beating Izwan.
After the loss, Singapore slipped to third in the five-team Group D with four points from four games, while Uzbekistan rose to the top with six points from three matches before Saudi Arabia finished their qualifier against Palestine.
The Lions' next qualifier is an away encounter against Yemen on Nov 19.