SINGAPORE - The Lions have gotten off to a flying start in their Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup campaign after beating Indonesia 1-0 in their Group B opener at the National Stadium on Friday (Nov 9).
They are now second in Group B behind five-time champions Thailand, who thumped Timor Leste 7-0 in Bangkok with six goals coming from Adisak Kraisorn. The top two from each group qualify for the two-legged semi-finals.
In front of 30,783 fans, Fandi Ahmad's men began the match as outsiders against the 2016 runners-up but took the game to the technically superior visitors.
Singapore midfielder Yasir Hanapi could have opened the scoring in the ninth minute after being threaded through by left-back Shakir Hamzah, but shot straight at Andritany Ardhiyasa.
In a first half in which they had no clear chance against an organised and disciplined Singapore defence, Indonesia nearly stole a goal only when Lions centre-back Irfan Fandi headed against his own bar six minutes later.
Singapore achieved the breakthrough in the 37th minute after winger Gabriel Quak created space with his nifty footwork to cross from the right flank and skipper Hariss Harun slammed home the loose ball.
Forward Faris Ramli missed two gilt-edged chances when he shot straight at Ardhiyasa in the 40th minute and when he did beat the goalkeeper in the 51st minute, his lob landed on the bar.
Despite incessant pressure by the Indonesians in a feisty second half which ended with Putu Gede Juni Antara sent off for a second yellow card, the Lions held firm to secure the morale-boosting three points.
Singapore last tasted a competitive victory more than three years ago in a 2-1 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia on Oct 13, 2015, and this win against Indonesia has largely improved their chances of progressing from what is widely regarded as the "Group of Death".
The four-time champions will take on the Philippines in their next Group B game on Tuesday away in Bacolod. They will then play Timor Leste at the National Stadium on Nov 21 before completing the group stage away in Thailand on Nov 25.