After sitting atop Group D of the World Cup Qualifiers following their first two games, the Lions were brought back to earth after suffering a 3-0 defeat by Asian powerhouses Saudi Arabia at the King Abdullah Stadium in Buraidah on Thursday (Oct 10).
Instead of wilting, Singapore managed some decent passages of play as Yasir Hanapi forced Mohammed Al-Owais into a smart stop in the 31st minute with an angled shot. Four minutes later, Lions 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 Al-Hamdan’s penalty after Safuwan Baharudin had bundled over Abdulfattah in the box.
The hosts were rewarded in the 61st minute when Abdullah converted Mohammed Al-Breik’s right-wing cross on the second attempt.
Abdulfattah then completed the scoring six minutes later when he slotted home Abdullah’s square pass.
Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard 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 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 and we had some players with fantastic technique.”
The result was Singapore’s first competitive loss under coach Tatsuma Yoshida, but also Saudi’s first win in this campaign as the Green Falcons go top of Group D with four points from two games while the Lions slip to second, level on points after three games but with an inferior goal difference.
The 45-year-old Japanese 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 team-mates when we win the second ball from set-pieces.
“It is normal to be disappointed. This result happened but 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.”
Singapore’s next qualifier is against Uzbekistan – who are third with three points from two games after beating Yemen 5-0 – at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
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