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L2(Team Singapore. Image extracted from Live Stream)

 

By Sadat Osman

 

Tears and heartbreak for Team Singapore in the 2nd leg of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final, after they fell to a 4-2 defeat against Indonesia at the National Stadium on Saturday evening (25 Dec) Our Lions lost 3 players to red cards – Safuwan Baharudin at the end of the first half, Irfan Fandi in the 67th minute and Hassan Sunny, with less than 2 minutes remaining at the end of extra time. Despite the numerical disadvantage, TeamSG fought all the way till the end and were given a standing ovation by the home fans, in their final appearance at the 13th Suzuki Cup edition.

L5(Match Officials with Team Captains. Image extracted from Live Stream)

270021737_460128845483337_5282444911794606921_n(Graphics Credit : AFF Suzuki Cup Facebook Page)

 

Singapore's head coach Tatsuma Yoshida, made 4 changes to his starting line-up that kicked off the first leg, introducing Amy Recha, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Hafiz Nor and Hami Syahin to take up a 5-4-1 formation. Having experienced the firepower of the Garuda, our Lions were getting ready to keep them at bay.

In the opening minutes, Indonesia were on the front foot – pushing men forward with Witan Sulaeman and Ricky Kambuaya leading the attack. The pair created the first real opportunity of the game in the 6th minute and while that failed to produce a goal, 5 minutes later, the visitors broke the deadlock.

FHdQRGmVEAAsPmh(No 7 Ezra Walian scores opening goal for Indonesia. Photo Credit : PSSI.org)

 

Latching onto a through ball on the right-hand side, Witan used his strength and speed to beat Lions centreback Safuwan before dashing into the penalty box. When goalkeeper Hassan rushed out to cover the angle, Witan maintained composure to find Ezra Walian free in the middle – with the easy task of putting the ball into an empty net. 1-0 to Indonesia. 

With the Indonesians full of confidence, Singapore was not allowed to settle down or create any attacking opportunities. Safuwan was taken to task again, after having allowed Asnawi Mangkualam to dispossess him before starting another attack – luckily for the home side, the attack amounted to nothing. In the 36th minute though, 30 year old Safuwan was booked despite a clean tackle on Witan.

image_from_ios_86(TeamSG's Safuwan receives 2nd yellow card. Photo Credit : Matthew Mohan/CNA)

 

The Selangor FC star defender (Safuwan) was in the spotlight again in the 2nd minute of stoppage time, when he was given his marching orders by the referee. He was shown a 2nd yellow card for clashing with Rizky Ridho before a free-kick was taken. And just as Safuwan was heading down the tunnel back to the locker room, Singapore equalised!

image_from_ios_87(Song Ui-young scores equaliser for SG Lions. Photo Credit : Matthew Mohan/CNA)

 

Lions vice-captain Shahdan Sulaiman sent a cross into the box. The Indonesian defence failed to clear their lines as the ball bumbled around in the penalty area before landing in front of Song Ui-young to pounce and smash the ball into the net – his first-ever goal for the Lions. 

269942854_460216602141228_6990102671278832934_n(Graphics Credit : AFF Suzuki Cup Facebook Page)

 

At the start of the 2nd half, neither side made any substitutions. And with the Republic down to 10 men, Coach Tatsuma had to rejig his defence to feature Hariss Harun and Irfan Fandi in the middle of his back-four.

With the one-man advantage, the Garuda were in control, having majority of the possession and attacking opportunities. Singapore seemed to struggle to re-take control and that sparked a triple substitution for the Lions – Ikhsan Fandi, Faris Ramli and Shawal Anuar were introduced in the 60th minute to add pace into the team and they didn’t take long to make an impact.

Just a minute after being subbed on, Ikhsan and Shawal linked up in the final third. Shawal latched onto a through ball before seeing goalkeeper Nadeo Argawinata off his line. He tried a deft chip, but it was marginally wide.

L3(TeamSG's Irfan receives a red card in the 67th minute. Image extracted from Live Stream)

 

Things got worse for our Lions in the 67th minute when Irfan got a straight red card for bringing down Irfan Jaya, after the Indonesian forward got in behind him and was racing towards the Lions' goal. Despite strong protests from the Singapore camp against the sending off, the Team with 9 men pushed ahead and went on to take the lead!

L1(TeamSG's Shadan celebrates after 2nd goal. Image extracted from Live stream)

 

Shahdan stood over a freekick just outside the Indonesian penalty area and launched a pinpoint shot over the wall and into the top left of the goal. A fully stretched Nadeo had no chance of saving the effort. Singapore lead 2-1! 

Stunned after going behind,  Indonesia seemed to have lost the cohesion which they've had since the start of the tournament, and this allowed Singapore to push on for their 3rd goal of the evening. Both Shahdan and Shawal came close to sealing the game with only 9 men, but against the run of play, the visitors equalised to make it 2-2 in the 87th minute.

269925366_460338585462363_5023048389474973943_n(Pratama Arhan scores 2-2! Photo Credit : affsuzukicup.com)

 

Witan found space in the Singapore penalty area to shoot at goal, but Hassan was equal to it. The parry was only as far as Pratama Arhan, who did well to slot home from a tight angle. He appeared offside, but the flag stayed down. 2-2 in the 87th minute!

FarisMiss(TeamSG's Faris Ramli tries to console himself after penalty miss. Photo Credit : affsuzukicup.com)

 

4 minutes later however, our Lions were awarded a penalty and the golden chance to score and advance to the grand finals. But Lions winger Faris Ramli's penalty attempt was saved as Nateo did well to dive to his left to deflect the shot for corner. On the opposite end, Hassan was Singapore’s hero for making 2 key saves to keep the Lions in the game. Fulltime score was 2-2! 

With the aggregate score level at 3-3, the game was forced into extra time and within a minute of the restart, Indonesia regained the lead. No one was able to stop Egy Maulana’s dribble into the box, allowing the forward to send a low cross across goal. Hassan managed to get hand to it, but when Shawal tried to clear the loose ball, he missed it. However, the ball ricocheted off Shawal’s trailing foot and rolled into the net. 

At 3-2 down, Hassan single-handedly kept Singapore in the game by making several saves to deny Indonesia’s potent attack. But in the 107th minute, the Lions’ custodian made his first mistake. Off a corner, Hassan had a lapse of concentration for a split second, allowing Egy to beat him to the ball at the near post and score from close range.

Leading 4-2, the game looked pretty much sealed for Indonesia, Singapore still pushed men forward to try and claw back, but to no avail. To put the nail in the coffin for the home side, a minute from time, 37 year old Hassan got himself sent off for taking down Irfan Jaya in a one-on-one situation outside the box. And having utilized our 5 subs already,  Ikhsan stepped up as a makeshift goalkeeper for – making a save to boot – but nothing could change Singapore’s fortunes at this point.

268283107_10160061831203255_3103915411509351454_n

Indonesia won the game 4-2 (5-3 on aggregate) and booked their spot in the final. The Garuda will play either Thailand or Vietnam, with the first leg on 29 December. Having lost in 5 grand finals over the last 25 years, the Indonesians will be looking to make amends by being crowned Champions on 1st Jan 2022, after the 2nd leg clash at the National Stadium. As for TeamSG, they will return in 2022 for the SEA Games in Hanoi and the next Suzuki Cup campaign in 12 months as well. Their overall experience in the current AFF tournament, will surely bode well for Coach Tatsuma and the Lions in general.  

269922430_460387502124138_5015605783188563356_n

Sadat Osman had a 10-year career in the publication industry, where he covered several beats including current affairs, food, fishing, music, and football. As the former chief editor at Goal.com and a fan of Newcastle United FC since 1996,  Sadat also had a trial as a goalkeeper at Tanjong Pagar United FC. But today he remains a frequent social player of the game, who fancies Lionel Messi. However, Sadat's playing style is unfortunately similar to that of Titus Bramble!

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