Syria coach: Lions lucky to get off lightly

Syria coach: Lions lucky to get off lightly
Syria Coach Fajr Ibrahim.
PHOTO: The New Paper

They arrived with only one purpose: To claim maximum points in last night's World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Singapore.

Throughout the 90 minutes at the National Stadium, Syria were not afraid to use every trick in the book to achieve that goal.

There was the play-acting that drew plenty of frustration from the crowd of 7,468, as well as niggly fouls that eventually saw Lions centre back Madhu Mohana sent off after losing his cool and retaliating against Omar Khribin.

In the end, it was mission accomplished for the Syrians as Omar's brace handed them a 2-1 victory.

Although the home fans were clearly displeased at the visitors' antics, Syria coach Fajr Ibrahim had no issues with what his players did.

"It was a competitive game, but we respect ourselves and our opponents," he said.

"We came here to win… and we won. That's very important.

DESIRE

"When Singapore equalised through a penalty, for us to continue fighting and score the winner in injury time showed our desire to win.

"This win is for the people in Syria and it will make them happy. But it is also very important, as it's for our president."

Having controlled proceedings after Omar gave them the 20th-minute lead, the visitors looked to squander the advantage when they conceded a penalty a minute from time, allowing Safuwan Baharudin to convert the equaliser.

Syria, however, managed to muster one last push to seal the win when their 21-year-old star was on target again.

But, asked if his side had been fortunate to win, Fajr insisted it was the hosts who should have been counting themselves lucky.

"The Singapore team were very lucky today," he said.

"As you saw, we wasted a lot of chances to score even more and it was a different game to our first meeting in Oman (where Syria won 1-0).

"You can see Singapore got the goal only through a penalty from an individual mistake. We controlled the game and played very well."

The victory also means Syria are almost guaranteed a place in the next round of the World Cup qualifiers, as well as a place in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

There remains a slim mathematical possibility that they could still miss out, although Fajr was already hailing a momentous day for Syrian football.

"It was a hard game but, with the win, we have qualified for the Asian Cup and the next round of the World Cup (qualifiers).

"This is very important, especially regarding the situation in Syria, because we have proven we are one of the 12 best teams in Asia.

"Now, all the people in my country are happy and that's very important."

Syria's next qualifier will see them take on bottom side Cambodia on March 24 next year, before facing off against Japan five days later to decide the Group E champions.


This article was first published on Nov 18, 2015.
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