Lions' 3-1 win over Maldives dampened by Ikhsan Fandi's injury

Singapore forward Ilhan Fandi (left) in action against the Maldives in an international friendly match at Jalan Besar Stadium. (PHOTO: Football Association of Singapore)
Singapore forward Ilhan Fandi (left) in action against the Maldives in an international friendly match at Jalan Besar Stadium. (PHOTO: Football Association of Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Singapore's national football team tuned up for next week's AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup with an encouraging 3-1 victory over the Maldives in an international friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday (17 December).

Goals from Ilhan Fandi - his first senior goal for the Lions - and Shawal Anuar (two goals) gave head coach Takayuki Nishigaya victory in his first home game since he took charge in April.

However, the Lions' winning mood was dampened by the sight of key striker Ikhsan Fandi being stretchered off in the first half, clutching his right knee. Ilhan and midfielder Adam Swandi also limped off to some concern on the Lions' bench in the second half.

Other than the worrying injuries, the Lions - ranked 160th in the world - began the match brightly in front of about 3,000 spectators, taking the lead in the fourth minute against their opponents, who are at 154th in the Fifa world rankings.

Ilhan started the move with a surging run on the right flank, laying off for his elder brother Ikhsan just outside the box. Despite being tripped by a Maldives defender, Ikhsan recovered to pass to an onrushing Christopher van Huizen on the left flank.

The winger swung in a superb cross, and Ilhan met it with a thumping header to open his account for the Lions.

Introduction of Shawal gave Lions second wind

Despite dominating possession, Singapore suffered a setback in the 17th minute, when Maldives snatched an equaliser against the run of play.

A corner from the left flank by Hamzah Mohamed found Ibrahim Mahudhee, who rose high over van Huizen to head past Zaiful Nizam.

Ikhsan's 38th-minute injury deflated the Lions as they struggled for possession at the end of the first half. Nishigaya's response was to bring in Shawal on for the second half, and immediately the Lions seemed re-energised by the bubbly forward's incessant probing.

They duly took the lead again in the 50th minute. Van Huizen's throw-in from the left flank found Song Ui-young, who swung in a pin-point cross for Shawal to plant a downward header which bounced in at the Maldives goalkeeper's near post.

The Hougang United stalwart doubled his tally for the match in the 87th minute, courtesy of more fine work from the Lions flank. This time it was from the right flank, as substitute right-back Ryhan Stewart eluded his marker and fired in a low and accurate cross for Shawal to tap in from point-blank range.

The Lions will begin their AFF Mitsubishi Cup campaign against Myanmar at the Jalan Besar Stadium next Saturday (24 December), and will also play Vietnam at the same venue on 30 December. They will face Laos (27 December) and Malaysia (3 January) away in the group stage.

Nishigaya is expected to announced his final 23-man squad for the AFF tournament on Monday.

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