Attacking line-up pays off for Aide and team

Attacking line-up pays off for Aide and team

Cambodia 1

Singapore 3

He finally gave the fans what they wanted by starting hot prospect Irfan Fandi alongside Sahil Suhaimi but for 43 minutes, Singapore coach Aide Iskandar and the Jalan Besar crowd witnessed frustrating route-one football in a nerve-racking 3-1 SEA Games Group A win.

To increasingly louder groans from the 7,000-odd fans, the Young Lions exchanged short passes with no real penetration, before hoofing high balls into Cambodia's box.

Yesterday's victory sent Aide's team into second place in the group on six points from three matches. But third-placed Indonesia, who will play their third game against the Philippines tonight, can reclaim the second qualifying spot for the last four with a win due to their superior goal difference.

Aide, though, was happy with the result, saying: "The performance wasn't the best but we got the three points.

"Now, our minds are firmly on Indonesia. I will consider how Irfan and Sahil (doubtful with cramps and knocks) recover over the next few days before deciding to partner them again."

Although Aide intensified his firepower through his two-man strikeforce, Singapore had just three attempts - all off target - to show at that 43rd-minute mark against a side that was thumped 1-6 by Indonesia two days earlier.

Then came 60 seconds of magic from the hosts - and madness from their opponents.

After Sahil was tackled clumsily outside the box, up stepped Safirul Sulaiman with a 20m dead ball that was alive with swerve and spin and that curled into the top-left corner of the net.

The Singapore bench had barely sat down from the hugs and high-fives when the lead was doubled a minute later.

Working the channels, Irfan chased down a lofted ball and hurdled over goalkeeper Um Serei Rath before lobbing a cross from the right to perfectly set up fellow attacker Faris Ramli for a simple header into an empty net. Cambodia's centre-backs simply stood bewildered.

Playing their third match in six days, the visitors pulled one back in the 55th minute when substitute Chan Vathanaka ran unmarked into the box to glance in a header.

And Singapore finally got their only shot on target in the second half when Sahil galloped clear to slot home in stoppage time.

An indignant Cambodia team manager Chhaing Pisedth vented his feelings: "We didn't deserve to lose. All of you can see the decisions of the referee tonight. I'm very proud of my boys and they deserved better for their efforts."

With Thursday's clash against Indonesia likely to decide Singapore's semi-final fate, the Young Lions will be without left-back Shakir Hamzah, who will miss the game after earning a caution - his second of the tournament - for an off-the-ball altercation.

His team were not helped by Irfan's withdrawal just after the break with cramps.

The 1.87m striker had worked hard off the ball, creating space for the roving duo of Sahil and Faris. But he had little to show in front of goal amid a barrage of wayward crosses and tight defending.

Sahil's late effort was met with relief and joy from a delighted crowd that included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

But one fears that the team did not make enough noise on the pitch to worry Indonesia ahead of their do-or-die encounter.

This article was first published on June 9, 2015.
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