Tatsuma Yoshida got his selection of players wrong as Lions suffer second defeat in their campaign…….
After a bruising 3-0 defeat against Saudi Arabia, Singapore set out to win against a high-flying Uzbekistan side to get their 2022 World Cup Qualifying campaign back on track at the National Stadium.
The Uzbeks had just beaten Yemen 5-0 but the Lions were not ready to cow against their opponents and immediately took the game to their opponents. Tatsuma Yoshida had spoken about being ambitious in his pre-game match conference – and the Lions showed just that.
Singapore began the game brightly, stringing passes while creating chances to score – however it was Uzbekistan that drew first blood. Odil Ahmedov opened the scoring in the 15th minute from a set-piece – though he was helped by Izwan Mahbud’s poor goalkeeping.
But Singapore refused to give up and on the stroke of half time, Ikhsan Fandi rose the highest to head the ball into the back of the net to equalise for the Lions.
But the roar would soon be replaced by jeers in the second half when Eldor Shomurodov scored in the 51st minute, in a similar fashion to Ikhsan’s goal. And as Singapore searched for equaliser fatigue started to set in while their pouring of bodies forward – made them susceptible to the counter.
Inevitably, it allowed Eldor to secure his brace as he rounded off Izwan to score his second and Uzbekistan’s third condemning the Lions to their second defeat in their 2022 World Cup Qualifying campaign, thus far.
What Went Wrong
Izwan would go on to have a shaky game – so did his defence – a chief problem ever since Tatsuma took over the Lions. The Japanese coach’s decisions to play Zulfahmi Arifin at left-back proved to be a disaster – the Hougang United captain lacked mobility – and was caught out of position too many times.
Safuwan Baharudin and Irfan Fandi despite having their hands full dealing with Uzbekistan’s forwards also had to cover Zulfahmi on numerous occasions – especially the latter. Indeed losing Shakir Hamzah was a big blow for the Lions, evident in today’s game.
Subsequently, another of Tatsuma’s strange decision to rest Gabriel Quak and Faris Ramli proved incorrect as Hafiz Nor drifted in and out of the game – unable to contribute.
The midfield did not fare any better than the defence as Shahdan Sulaiman continues to underwhelm in a Lions jersey. Captain Hariss Harun was bereft of options to play a forward pass given the lack of options. However, Hami Syahin continues to impress as his energy and breaking up of play could see him become a mainstay in the national team.
If there was ever a way to describe today’s loss for the Lions – it would be down to poor decisions. And Tatsuma must take the blame for the defeat. His decision to take off Ikhsan Fandi especially when the Lions were pushing for a goal belied common sense.
What’s the use of introducing wingers into the game if the team doesn’t have a reference point to cross the ball to? When Singapore conceded the third goal, the home fans could be seen rushing for the exit.
Optimism had been replaced by pessimism in the stadium asTatsuma threatened to undo all the good work he had done. In football – only results matter – and like the fans – that seems to be slipping away too from Singapore.