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AFF Suzuki Cup '12: they called, you answered

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13 December 2012, Singapore
- Ahead of the second leg of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final match against the Philippine Azkals, 42-year-old striker Aleksandar Duric called upon the “12th man” to help the Lions reach the Final. He called and they answered.

“The crowd was just brilliant, I knew they would come and cheer and we promised them the finals as a present for them and we did. This is good for Singapore football,” Duric told after the match.

So as the night began with showers of blessings over the Jalan Besar Stadium, it saw an electrifying home crowd singing their hearts out and red and white scarves swinging around and about. A packed stadium was soon filled with noise and cheer even before the players came out. That set the stage for the Lions.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth was one of the 7,000 strong crowd in attendance on an historic night. "I’m very happy to be here to cheer and support our Lions. I wish them the very best," he told reporters.

As the game began, the stadium shook with pride and big banners of people shouting and screaming when it came to a near goal and needless to say, the atmosphere drove the home side to play with tenacity and spirit. They started pushing for an early goal, seeing almost the whole team up field pressing the opposition, giving little away while snapping at the heels of the Philippines defence.

As fans shivered in the cold aftermath of the weather that certainly did not dampen their spirits, as by the 19th minute there was already cause for celebration. Khairul Amri, scorer of the dramatic equalising goal in Thailand to help win the Lions the Suzuki Cup back in 2007, did it yet again.

This time smashing in a fantastic goal from the edge of the penalty box past a hapless Azkals defence. The goal sent the already buoyant home crowd and the Lions into hysteria.

In his post match comments, Philippines coach Hans Michael Weiss said that though his boys tried their best in the second half, there was no way throughout the match that they, despite their physical advantage were able to out muscle the Singaporean Lions as they were very organised.

Deserved win

 “The Lions deserved to win and they can win the Suzuki Cup. But as losers, we will lose with dignity and grace,” said Weiss. “There’s no time for us to mourn this loss, as we will be preparing for our next tournament (The Challenge Cup) in January that would be played on home soil. That is most important now.”

Goalscorer Khairul Amri reminisced the winning goal that he scored to win Singapore the Suzuki Cup title in 2007.

“Scoring that goal to help the team reach the finals is a bonus, and I am happy that we won. I will keep going for training to perform my best at the finals. If I were to score a goal at the finals again this year, that would definitely be a special one.”

Singapore coach Raddy Avramovich already has his sights set on the final, as he expects a more challenging and demanding game from Thailand.

“The players did 100% tonight, and it is thanks to them we are now in the finals. We played very well, previously we let in 3 goals, but this time, we didn’t let any goals in. Will we try to win? We try, why not?”

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