Lions’ Asian Cup Bid Ends after Bahrain Defeat

Singapore’s brave display was not enough as they succumbed to a 3-0 loss at the hands of Bahrain at the National Stadium in the penultimate Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Group E qualifier.  

The Lions came out all guns blazing with Shawal Anuar once again proving to be the danger man. 

The pacey winger had his first chance within the opening minute when Zulfahmi Arifin’s free-kick worked its way to him at the far post, but his shot flashed narrowly wide across goal. 

Five minutes later, Irfan Fandi scorched the hands of Bahrain goalkeeper S. Shubbar to continue the good work from the home side. 

Things took a turn in the 15th minute when Shawal was replaced by Faritz Hameed due to an earlier knock. 

Despite the setback, Singapore continued to dominate proceedings as Bahrain resorted to long-range efforts from way out. 

Bahrain came out from the break looking more positive with Mahdi Abduljabbar trying his luck with a shot just outside the box. 

Abduljabbar almost broke the deadlock on 52 minutes when he ghosted in with a header only for Hassan Sunny to save the day. 

Abduljabbar was then given another free header shortly after, which Hassan made a heroic save from. However, the striker managed to get to the rebound first to make it 1-0 for Bahrain.

Singapore almost made an instant reply when Hafiz Sujad charged down the left wing, but his cross was put out for a corner by the Bahrain defence. 

Another golden opportunity to equalise fell to Safuwan in the 70th minute but he failed to meet Nazrul Nazari’s cross. Bahrain went down the other way and Abduljabbar slid the ball wide with only Hassan to beat. 

V. Sundram Moorthy rolled the dice and put on Khairul Amri with 18 minutes left to search for that all-important goal. 

Amri’s introduction saw the Lions push up higher but their efforts came to naught when Jamal Rashed caught the Lions’ defence napping and calmly slotted the ball past Hassan to make it 2-0. 

Abduljabbar added a third off a corner to sum up a disappointing night for the gutsy home team.  

“It’s disappointing, we conceded soft goals and for 60 minutes we were there. My game plan was (disrupted after being) forced to make three tactical changes, with Shawal injured, Irfan injured,” Singapore Head Coach V. Sundram Moorthy said after the game.

“When Irfan was there, we were solid, he dealt with the high ball and crosses and he twisted his ankle. We only have one Irfan – when he left, it was totally a different game.

“Singapore now head into their final AFC Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Chinese Taipei on 27 March 2018 with both teams already out of contention for the 2019 tournament. 

Singapore lineup: Hassan Sunny (GK), Madhu Mohana, Daniel Bennett, Irfan Fandi (Nazrul Nazari 57’), Hariss Harun (C), Hafiz Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin (Khairul Amri 72′), Shahdan Sulaiman, Shawal Anuar (Faritz Hameed 14’), Faris Ramli, Safuwan Baharudin