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Singapore confirm AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals spot, beat Timor-Leste 2-0

SINGAPORE — It has been a long, agonising wait that has spanned almost a decade.

Shakir Hamzah (right) of Singapore celebrates after scoring the second goal during the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 Group A match between Singapore and Timor Leste at the National Stadium on Dec 14, 2021.

Shakir Hamzah (right) of Singapore celebrates after scoring the second goal during the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 Group A match between Singapore and Timor Leste at the National Stadium on Dec 14, 2021.

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SINGAPORE — It has been a long, agonising wait that has spanned almost a decade.

Since lifting the AFF Suzuki Cup for the fourth time in 2012, the Lions have not made the semi-finals of the competition.

Knocked out on home soil in 2014, eliminated without a win in 2016, and missing out after their final group stage match in 2018.

But because of the Philippines’ 1-2 defeat to Thailand earlier on Tuesday (Dec 14), Singapore did not have to wait for their group stage clash against Timor-Leste as previous wins against Myanmar (3-0), and the Philippines (2-1) were enough.

Regardless, the Lions would go on to rubber stamp their spot by eking out 2-0 victory over Timor-Leste later in the evening, courtesy of goals from Adam Swandi and Shakir Hamzah.

Throughout the tournament, Singapore head coach Tatsuma Yoshida has showed his willingness to make changes, and it was Adam who swept home in the fourth minute after good work from Song Ui-yong.

But Timor-Leste, who were hammered 0-7 by Philippines in their last game, showed they were still a dangerous side. Minutes later, Lions custodian Hassan Sunny was forced into a point-blank stop with his feet.

The visitors threw caution to the wind and continued to go on the offensive. They were almost rewarded in the 20th minute, but Mouzinho’s shot was charged down.

Lions midfielder Hami Syahin then came close moments later, but his curler dropped tantalisingly wide.

Singapore started the second half strong and almost doubled their lead courtesy of Ikhsan Fandi.

However, the striker, who has already registered two goals for Singapore at the tournament, could only look on in disbelief as his shot rebounded off the post in the 52nd minute.

Timor-Leste responded almost immediately with a long-range effort from Yohanes Gusmao which fizzed just wide.

The Lions’ second came from an unlikely source in the 70th minute to the delight of the crowd, as Shakir bundled home after a set-piece caused confusion.

With the win, the Lions sit second in Group A with nine points. They are level on points with the top-ranked Thais but behind on goal difference.

Singapore will face Thailand in their last group stage game on Saturday, and a win will seal top spot for the Lions.

Like Singapore, the Thais have yet to lose a game. CNA

For more stories like this, visit cna.asia

Catch the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 LIVE on meWATCH. Sign in now at mewatch.sg/affsuzukicup2020 and get into the action with Mediacorp, Singapore’s official broadcaster of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020.

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AFF Suzuki Cup football FAS Timor Leste

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