Lions fall 0-3 to Saudi Arabia despite goalkeeping heroics from Izwan Mahbud

Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud saves an attempt during their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Buraidah. (PHOTO: Saudi Arabian Football Federation)

SINGAPORE — They had previously beaten a side ranked 60 spots above them in the Fifa world rankings, but the Singapore national football team could not maintain their giant-killing run against Asian powerhouses Saudi Arabia on Thursday (10 October).

They were brought back to earth in a 0-3 defeat in their 2022 World Cup Asian Zone Group D qualifier in Buraidah, against a side ranked 87 spots higher than them in the rankings and had qualified for the World Cup Finals five times in their history.

It was their first defeat under new coach Tatsuma Yoshida, who took the helm in May, and came after an upset 2-1 win over Palestine in their previous World Cup qualifying match at the National Stadium last month.

Coach urges players to stay positive

The Japanese insisted that he was encouraged by his players’ never-say-die attitude, and urged them to stay positive as they turn their attentions to a crucial clash against Uzbekistan at home next Tuesday.

“We don’t stop, and we keep going,” he said, according to a report on the Football Association of Singapore website. “The boys should keep their heads up. It’s normal to be disappointed, I know this sort of result happens but we should not worry. We must try to get better step by step, day by day and game by game.

“We wanted to get the ball higher up in attacking positions, but we couldn’t. The Saudi players’ concentration was at a good level. We tried to aim for an away goal but we couldn’t reach there.”

Goalkeeping heroics from Izwan Mahbud

Goals from Abdulfattah Asiri (28th and 67th minutes) and Abdullah Al Hamddan (61st) gave Saudis the win, and in truth they could have scored more, had it not been a top-class performance by Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who made at least three excellent saves to keep the scoreline respectable.

The defeat leaves Singapore third in the Group D table, behind Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. The Uzbeks had romped to a 5-0 win over Yemen earlier on Thursday.

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