Lions beat Yemen for first away win in Middle East since 2008

Singapore winger Hafiz Nor (right) tussles for the ball with Yemen's Omar Abdullah Al-Dahi during their 2022 World Cup qualifier in Bahrain. (PHOTO: Football Association of Singapore/Courtesy of Bahrain FA)

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s national football team snapped a three-match losing streak with a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Yemen in their 2022 World Cup qualifying clash at the Al Muharraq Stadium in Bahrain on Tuesday (19 November).

The victory is the Lions’ first away win against a Middle East nation since they beat Lebanon 2-1 in 2008, also in a World Cup qualifier.

Goals from Ikhsan Fandi (19th minute) and Hafiz Nor (52nd minute) set them towards the win over Yemen, who are 18 spots above Singapore in the Fifa world ranking. The Lions are at No. 159.

The Yemenis cut the deficit in the 85th minute, when Salem Al-Omzae slotted past goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, but the Lions hung on for the win.

Head coach praises charges for great attitude

Head coach Tatsuma Yoshida was delighted with his charges’ performance, especially since Singapore were missing several stalwarts – Faris Ramli, Shakir Hamzah and Shawal Anuar – through injury or family emergency.

“We said before the match that it was a must-win and it is important that we got it. The result may be surprising for some people, but it is not a surprise for me. The boys have shown a great attitude and I trust them,” he told the official Football Association of Singapore (FAS) website.

“We showed that we could win even without some important players; the others stepped up and proved themselves.”

It was an especially sweet first international goal for Hafiz, who also celebrated the birth of his first child, daughter Freya Inara, on 8 October. The Home United winger, 31, has thrived under Yoshida, starting the last three international matches after earning just two caps between 2013 and 2018.

“When I got the ball, the only thing in my mind was to beat the player and go for a shot; that was what coach told me to do in training and I am happy I did it,” he told the FAS website.

Lions move up to third in Group D

With the victory, the Lions leapt from bottom place to third in the five-nation Group D of the Asia Zone World Cup qualifiers, which also serves as qualifying matches for the 2023 Asian Cup.

With the top two nations advancing to the next Asia Zone World Cup qualifying round, the Lions still have an uphill task as they will face the countries above them – Saudi Arabia at home and Uzbekistan away – in two of their remaining three Group D matches.

Nonetheless, it has placed them in good stead to advance to the next Asian Cup qualifying round, provided they maintain their third placing in the tightly-contested group.

“We are still improving and we have to try to make another step up. We must always try to win no matter where we play and we have to keep going,” said Yoshida.

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Lions rue lapses that cost them a deserved win, as they draw 2-2 with Yemen

One match at a time: Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida's mantra as they begin 2022 World Cup qualifiers