Singapore outclassed but upbeat

The Singapore defence finding Saudi Arabia forward Abdulfattah Asiri a hard man to contain. He scored a brace in the hosts' 3-0 win in the World Cup qualifier in Buraidah on Thursday night. PHOTO: SAUDI ARABIAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION
The Singapore defence finding Saudi Arabia forward Abdulfattah Asiri a hard man to contain. He scored a brace in the hosts' 3-0 win in the World Cup qualifier in Buraidah on Thursday night. PHOTO: SAUDI ARABIAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION

Yoshida admits gulf in standards after Saudi loss but happy with attitude and tactical nous

Group D leaders Singapore were brought back to earth after a 3-0 defeat at regional giants Saudi Arabia in the World Cup Asian second-round qualifiers on Thursday.

In their first competitive loss under coach Tatsuma Yoshida after a draw and win from their first two group games, the Lions were on the back foot early on at the King Abdullah Stadium in Buraidah.

Abdulfattah Asiri broke the deadlock in the 28th minute but, instead of wilting, the visitors managed some decent passages of play.

Yasir Hanapi forced Mohammed Al-Owais into a smart stop in the 31st minute with an angled shot and four minutes later, skipper Hariss Harun also tested the Saudi goalkeeper from range.

Singapore custodian Izwan Mahbud kept his side in the game just before the break when he kept out Abdullah Alhamddan's penalty after Safuwan Baharudin had bundled over Asiri in the box.

But world No. 70 Saudi Arabia, who have never lost to Singapore in 10 previous encounters, showed their superiority in the second half as they laid siege on their 157th-ranked opponents' goal.

The hosts were rewarded in the 61st minute when Alhamddan steered in Mohammed Al-Breik's right-wing cross on the second try.

Asiri got his second goal of the night six minutes later by slotting home Alhamddan's square pass to seal the win.

Saudi coach Herve Renard, an Africa Cup of Nations winner with Zambia and Ivory Coast, said: "Congrats to Singapore because before we scored the three goals, the game was not easy.

"You can see the team are able to work very well with the coach. I told the Singapore coach at the end of the game that, tactically, they are able to change their system well as they could play with three and then two centre-backs.

"We respect Singapore, but of course the talent of the Saudi players was better today. We had some players with fantastic technique."

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

We should not worry. You saw the difference in level between the teams... but we must try to catch up step by step, day by day, game by game.

TATSUMA YOSHIDA, Singapore coach, on the 3-0 loss to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis' first win this campaign, after a 2-2 draw in Yemen, sent them top of Group D with four points while the Lions slipped to second on goal difference.

Yoshida said: "The result is disappointing, but we never gave up.

"We aimed to get three points because we had nothing to lose. We could have parked the bus but that is not good for us.

"We tried to play and get the ball higher up in attacking positions, but we couldn't.

"The players' attitude is good and we are following our concepts.

"But we can improve in terms of connection between teammates when we win the second ball from set pieces.

"We should not worry. You saw the difference in level between the teams... but we must try to catch up step by step, day by day, game by game."

On Tuesday at the National Stadium, Singapore will host world No. 88 Uzbekistan, who beat Yemen 5-0 on Thursday to go third with three points from two games.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore outclassed but upbeat '. Print Edition | Subscribe