Singapore scrape victory over Laos for second straight win in AFF Cup 2022
Irfan Fandi and Shawal Anuar scored for the Lions, who were made to work harder than expected.
Despite a far from convincing display, the Singapore men’s national football team made it two wins on the trot in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 on Tuesday evening (27 December).
Goals from Irfan Fandi and Shawal Anuar helped the Lions to secure a 2-0 away win over Laos, a team that conceded 11 times in their first two matches against Vietnam and Malaysia. Takayuki Nishigaya’s side could yet rue their failure to score more goals and rack up the goal difference, which could prove to be the decisive factor in securing a semi-finals berth.
While there were six changes made to the lineup from the 3-2 win against Myanmar, the Lions were, for the second match running, unable to stamp their authority.
Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was easily the busier goalkeeper on the night, with the three-man defence of Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun and Joshua Pereira constantly called into action.
It took Singapore – playing in their away blue kit – all of 26 minutes to record their first shot on target through Shahdan Sulaiman’s free-kick, which was easily held by Laos goalkeeper Keo-Oudone Souvannasangso.
The deadlock was only broken after the half-hour mark, when Irfan rose highest to nod Zulfahmi Arifin’s pinpoint delivery from a set-piece into the net.
The goal also meant the three eldest sons of legendary Singapore forward Fandi Ahmad have now scored at the AFF Cup – Ilhan scored on his tournament debut against Myanmar over the weekend, while Ikhsan recorded a total of five in the 2018 and 2020 editions.
While the expectation was that the goal would give the Lions the impetus they needed to go on and secure a big win, it was the Laotians who took the initiative instead. Chony Waenpaseuth lashed a shot just wide before the break, before Phithack Kongmathilath rocked Hassan’s crossbar with a stinging 30-metre shot after the restart.
Singapore should have doubled the lead in the 50th minute when Hafiz Nor set Faris Ramli clear, but the latter’s first shot was cleared off the line by a Laotian defender before his follow-up was denied by Souvannasangso.
That was as good as the Lions carved out in open play as the hosts kept surging forward in search of an equaliser. Singapore had 38-year-old Hassan to thank for as he confidently snuffed out a number of aerial balls with confidence.
Nishigaya’s men survived another scare in the 88th minute when Phonsack Seesavath fired off-target from eight yards, before going on to seal the victory four minutes into injury time.
A moment of lapse from Souvannasangso while trying to play the ball from the back allowed substitute Shawal to steal it, before calmly slotting into an open goal for his second goal of the tournament.
Singapore are now third in the group, behind leaders Vietnam and Malaysia – who play each other later on Tuesday – on goal difference.
Tougher hurdles await Singapore as they host Vietnam – the only Southeast Asian side ranked in the top 100 of FIFA football rankings – on Friday, before crossing the Causeway for a crunch clash against neighbours Malaysia next Tuesday.