Safuwan hails Lions’ ‘progressive football’ as Singapore edge closer to Suzuki Cup semis
Mixing defensive resilience with fast-paced, counter-attacking football, along with a dash of set-piece excellence, the Lions have been able to record victories in both their matches in the tournament, with last night’s (SGT) 2-1 win over the Philippines coming on the back of their 3-0 triumph over Myanmar on Sunday.
Against the Azkals, the Lions scored two quick-fire goals through captain Hariss Harun (61’) and Faris Ramli (63’), but saw their two goal advantage halved just minutes later through Amin Nazari’s 69th minute header.
Despite a late flurry by the Philippines in the closing stages of the game – which gave the boisterous home crowd the opportunity to stretch their vocal chords by booing pantomime villain Stephan Schröck – Tatsuma Yoshida’s men held firm for all three points.
While Hariss’ goal came about through a set-piece, it was Faris’ strike that really captured the imagination of the fans, as it came at the end of a devastating counter-attack that would have made even Jurgen Klopp proud.
Indeed, even the Lions themselves appear to be enjoying this brand of football, as OPPO Man of the Match Safuwan Baharudin, who won his 99th cap, said: “In the past, we played our football differently, trying to hit the ball forward and hope for the best. Now we are playing progressive football under Coach Tatsuma and the players know what we can all do.”
Singapore’s victory over the Philippines also marks the first time in 13 years that the Lions have won their opening two Suzuki Cup games. It was also the first time since 2015 that they have won back-to-back competitive games.
While it has been an encouraging start to the tournament, there is still some way to go yet before Singapore’s supporters can start dreaming about possibly winning the Suzuki Cup. Just ask Tottenham Hotspur fans, who were crowing in August about their title chances after ending that month top of the table.
Nonetheless, Tatsuma is confident that this victory over the Philippines will give his players a boost that will serve them well for the rest of the tournament.
“I am so happy that the boys could fight all the way until the end to achieve these three points,” Tatsuma said. “In the first half, they did well in their positioning and teamwork… In the second half, they showed their soul and the Singapore spirit. This victory is a very big turning point for us in this competition.”
Safuwan added: “Credit to the boys, we really worked our socks off tonight to get these three important points. Philippines had many quality players who are difficult to stop, but we did what many teams could not do against them.”
Singapore will next take on minnows Timor Leste next Tuesday (Dec 14), where a victory will guarantee them passage into the semis. They will then close out their group stage matches with a clash against favourites Thailand on Dec 18.