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268858062_10160048368713255_2629266782512145478_n(Singapore Lions. Photo Credit : Football Association of Singapore)

 

By Sadat Osman 

In the final group A match of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup played at the National Stadium on Saturday evening (18 Dec), Singapore lost to Thailand 2-0 in what was a strong display for the War Elephants.

Going into this tie, neither side needed a win to solidify a spot in the semi-finals — Thailand secured their berth in the next round after defeating the Philippines in the previous round, and that same result confirmed qualification for the Lions even before they played against Timor-Leste earlier in the week. 

267552337_454467372716151_8775103456996400434_n(Photo Credit of Team Lineups : AFF Suzuki Cup Facebook Page)

 

Both coaches had different mindsets ahead of this game, with Alexandre Polking choosing to start without any of his regular players. And Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida only made 2 changes to his starting 11 that faced Timor Leste - Shahdan Sulaiman and Faris Ramli were selected this time around. 

The 9,500 crowd at the National Stadium had to sit through a cagey affair in the opening 10 minutes as both sides went at each other with aggression. Fouls were in abundance, and there were several stoppages for injuries. The home side drew the shorter straw in the heated exchange – resulting in Shakir Hamzah picking up a knee injury before being taped up on the sidelines. The left-back tried to carry on after getting medical attention but soon after coming back onto the pitch, he fell to the ground and had to be stretchered off.

For the next 10 minutes, the match finally drew some action with the Lions' first attempt at goal via captain Hariss Harun. The stalwart latched on to a loose from 35 metres out and decided to pop a shot at goal. He did well to keep his effort down, but a wall of Thai defenders were in his way. The Republic was awarded a cornerkick, but nothing came from it.

The Lions piled on the pressure, particularly from the right-hand side, taking full advantage of the pace of Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Shawal Anuar. Despite all their efforts, they were only able to win a handful of corner kicks.

Dolah(Thailand's Elias Dolah scores. Photo Credit : affsuzukicup.com)

 

While the visitors appeared to be disjointed, they were the first to take the lead with their golden opportunity at goal in the 31st minute. Bordin Phala stood behind a freekick at the edge of the penalty area. His struck his shot with power and precision, forcing SGP's goalkeeper Hassan Sunny to dive to his left to parry the ball into the post. With the ball still loose, Elias Dolah was on hand to knock the ball into the net.

This was the first time Singapore was trailing in a match in this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup and it seemed to have fuelled Thailand’s confidence. The War Elephants continued to throw men forward, and even tested Hassan a couple times.

Supachai(Thailand's Supachai Chaided scores. Photo Credit : affsuzukicup.com)

 

In stoppage time of the 1st first half though, the 5-time champions scored their well-deserved 2nd goal. Faris Ramli had a lapse in concentration as he gave the ball away in his own half and that allowed the Thais to launch a quick counterattack via Worachit Kanitsribampen. The 24-year-old spotted Supachai Chaided breaking through the Singapore defence with his run and released his team-mate to slot home from close range.

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The War Elephants began the 2nd half with another string of changes – still opting to leave the regulars out of the game, but that didn’t stop them from creating chances in front of goal. Pawee Tanthatemee and Weerathep Pomphan came close to padding Thailand’s lead. But enough pressure from the Singapore defence managed to keep them out.

Shahwal(TeamSG's Shawal Anuar. Photo Credit : affsuzukicup.com)

 

The Lions had chances of their own, with Shawal coming the closest in the 59th minute. Off a quick freekick, Hariss played Shawal in behind the Thai backline. However, goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen was quick to come off his line to close the angle and block the shot.

2 minutes from fulltime, the visitors could have netted their 3rd goal when Sivakorn Tiatrakul found Adisak Kraisorn with a pinpoint cross from the left-hand side. However, the Thai forward couldn’t keep his effort down in front of an empty net.

266724615_10160048909088255_469065363408928552_n

At the end of the match, Singapore fell to their 6th straight defeat at the hands of their arch rivals in almost 10 years! 

With the result, the Lions finish 2nd in Group A with 9 points, while the War Elephants are perched on top with 12. Singapore will go on to play Indonesia, Vietnam or Malaysia in the semi-finals – depending on the results of the remaining Group B games on Sunday evening (19 Dec).

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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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