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Singapore eliminated from AFF Suzuki Cup after 3 red cards, penalty miss in extra-time loss to Indonesia in semis

Singapore's Safuwan Baharudin is sent off during his side's AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 semi-final second leg match against Indonesia at the National Stadium in Singapore on Dec 25, 2021.

Singapore's Safuwan Baharudin is sent off during his side's AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 semi-final second leg match against Indonesia at the National Stadium in Singapore on Dec 25, 2021.

SINGAPORE — On the pitch at the National Stadium on Saturday (Dec 25), they fought like Lions.

Backs against the wall, in the face of several questionable refereeing decisions, they stared into the abyss of a loss.

Yet they battled, clearing shots off the line, defending stoutly, throwing bodies around.

And then came heartbreak in extra-time for Singapore, courtesy of two Indonesian goals.

Tatsuma Yoshida’s side were eliminated from the AFF Suzuki Cup on Saturday (Dec 25) after a 4-2 loss to Indonesia in the second leg of their semi-final.

Extra-time strikes from Irfan Jaya and Egy Maulana Vikri gave the away side a 5-3 aggregate victory and ensured that the search for the Lions’ first Suzuki Cup title since 2012 would go on.

The Lions’ first leg match on Wednesday ended 1-1 as an Ikhsan Fandi equaliser pegged back the Indonesians.

However, with Yoshida making several changes, Ikhsan started the game on the bench for a different-looking Singapore side for the second leg.

In his place was Geylang International striker Amy Recha, making his first Singapore start. Faris Ramli was also dropped to the bench, with Hafiz Nor starting for the Lions.

It was the Indonesians who took the lead in the 11th minute, as a Hassan Sunny pass was intercepted by Witan. He brushed off two defenders and found Ezra Walian for the opener.

Four minutes later, they almost doubled their lead but Pratama Rifai could only curl his effort over.

Singapore struggled to find their foot in the game, with a series of misplaced passes handing the momentum to the ever-pressing Indonesia team on a number of occasions.

The Lions’ best chance came courtesy of a lung-busting run from Song-Ui young, who found Hafiz Nor, but his shot was parried wide.

Amy Recha then looked to have been brought down in the box when he was about to latch onto the rebound but vehement appeals from Singapore were waved away.

Then came a flashpoint. Defender Safuwan Baharudin, who was flashed a soft yellow card earlier by referee Qasim Matar Ali Al Hatmi, was booked again and sent off after a tussle in the box before a corner kick was taken. 

But the Lions held their nerve and drew level, with Song firing home in added time to the delight of the Singapore fans.

Singapore's Song Ui-young celebrates after scoring during his side's AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 semi-final second leg match against Indonesia at the National Stadium in Singapore on Dec 25, 2021.

Indonesia piled on the pressure in the second half, and had a shot rebound off the bar in the 59th minute.

Yoshida threw caution to the wind with a triple substitution, bringing on Ikhsan, Faris and Shawal Anuar.

And it was Shawal who almost made an instant impact a minute after coming on but his dipping shot drifted just wide.

Defender Irfan Fandi received his marching orders in the 67th minute, after he hauled down Irfan Jaya as he ran towards goal. The referee deemed the Singapore defender to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Shortly after, Singapore midfielder Shahdan thought he had turned game winner as he curled a gorgeous free kick past the Indonesian keeper to put Singapore ahead.

But Indonesia were not done yet, and they grabbed an equaliser with four minutes to spare, courtesy of Pratama Arhan.

With the game on the line, Faris had the chance to seal a famous win, but his penalty was pushed away by Indonesian keeper Nadeo Winata.

Then came the clincher for the Indonesians with just a minute played in extra time. As Irfan Jaya tried to force the ball across the line, it rebounded off Shawal into goal.

Indonesia almost extended their lead on several occasions, if not for the excellent work of Singapore’s Hassan Sunny.

Substitute Egy then doubled the Indonesians’ lead just before the first half of extra-time to seal the victory.

Hassan received his marching orders with time ticking down as the Lions went down to eight men.

Despite the loss, the crowd’s appreciation for the crestfallen team at the full-time whistle said it all.

Singapore may have fallen to a defeat, but on a pulsating Christmas night at the National Stadium, they roared. CNA

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football Football Association of Singapore AFF Suzuki Cup

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