Lucky Lions down Afghanistan to keep up Asian Cup hopes
09 October, 2015
Khairul Amri proved the hero as Singapore escaped from Thursday's nerve jangling World Cup qualifier against an impressive Afghanistan with a 1-0 victory at the National Stadium, which coach Bernd Stange dubbed a "dirty win".
For the German and his Lions team, though, it was all about the three points and keeping Singapore on track to advance to the next stage of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Singapore's Khairul Amri (R) celebrates scoring a goal. Photo: Sport Singapore
The national team, who last played at the Asian Cup in 1984 as hosts, even retain hope of sneaking through to the next stage of the Road to Russia 2018 as one of the best second placed sides across the eight Asian groups.
Amri marked his 102nd appearance for the national team by rising unmarked to head home Faris Ramli's 72nd-minute corner for his 29th international goal.
It came after Afghanistan blew numerous opportunities to break the deadlock with Khaibar Amani particularly profligate.
The striker wasted two clear cut chances from close range at the end of the first half and another in the second, with Singapore also hacking two Afghan shots off the goalline.
The record books will show another clean sheet for Singapore goalkeeper Izan Mahbud but Stange was humble enough to acknowledge it was the most fortuitous of wins.
"We were very, very lucky but we are very, very happy," he said. "It was a dirty win.
"That is extremely important during a qualification, to make results, it is a base for success."
Afghanistan's Khaibar Amani (L) and Singapore's Muhammad Zulfahmi tussling for the ball. Photo: Sport Singapore
The three points moved Singapore on to seven from four matches in Group E. They sit third, three points behind Japan who beat Syria 3-0 in Oman on Thursday. Syria are second on nine and Afghanistan are fourth on three.
Next up for Singapore is a home match against bottom side Cambodia, who have lost all four matches so far, on Tuesday and Stange was eyeing another three points with the help of the fans after praising the efforts of the 7,128 who turned up to cheer on the hosts against Afghanistan.
"I saw our fans as winners tonight," the former Belarus, Oman and Iraq manager said,.
"They never let us down during many, many periods we are lacking quality of football. They pushed us and were very, very helpful so we could achieve a very, very lucky 1-0 against a strong team from Afghanistan."