Singapore's Under-22s claimed their first Merlion Cup victory with a score of 1-0 at the finals held at Jalan Besar Stadium. Photo: Sport Singapore
In a fervent battle against their Thai counterparts, Singapore's Under-22s claimed their first Merlion Cup victory with a score of 1-0 at the finals held at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday (June 9) evening.
From start to end, the young Lions put up an inspiring performance with excellent focus and discipline. Substitute Ikhsan Fandi then made history for Singapore with the winning goal, scoring in the 36th minute.
From then on, the home team focused on playing a tactical, defensive system, working hard to frustrate their Thai opponents and limit their scoring chances. Their efforts eventually paid off as they lifted the Merlion Cup trophy in front of over 3,000 adoring fans.
The home team (in red) focused on playing a tactical and defensive system, working hard to frustrate their Thai opponents. Photo: Sport Singapore
Thai head coach Alexandre Gama congratulated the hosts, and said of the opponents: "The Singapore players impressed me with their physical condition, for this age, it's really high level, they've got very strong players, and the attitude of the players are amazing."
The win has proven to be a confidence boost for the team, who is also gearing up for the SEA Games in the Philippines later this year, as they attend training camps in Japan as part of preparations. "It's still a bit early, there are still a lot of things for us to work on but this is the team and our fighting spirit that you see, so we'll try to keep that going for the SEA Games," said match-winner Ikhsan Fandi.
Singapore's coach Fandi Ahmad, who was in visibly good spirits after the game, said of his team: "We're very happy with this win... today we played with lots of character, discipline. It's been some time since we won a trophy for Singapore. It was very physical today and this is how we need to compete. Some of our players are a bit smaller and haven't had the international experience, and this was a good one for them. I thought that we did very well."
"The spirit was superb today and everyone was raring to go. We kept to our promise to stay disciplined and no one caused any trouble. I'm just happy for the boys, even though it's a small tournament its a good stepping stone. We must have faith in our football," said coach Fandi.
Match-winner Ikhsan Fandi (right) battling hard during the match. Photo: Sport Singapore
"We had no fear of Thailand even before today, we believed we could beat them but we should focus on improving ourselves and not on others," said Man of the Match Hami Syahin. "It means a lot playing on home ground and winning it in front of our home fans. I would say this is a stepping stone for us towards the SEA Games. With the momentum we have we can qualify, and I think that this was an important win for us to prepare us for the Games."
Asked about Singapore's targets for the upcoming SEA Games in Philippines, coach Fandi said: "We want to do well but firstly we have to qualify. It's been a while that we've been in the top four. Our ambition is to do well in the group stage, hopefully we will pass that then we can talk about wanting a medal."
"Indonesia has said they've their sights set on gold; Malaysia has so many national players; Vietnam's one of the best in Asia at the moment; Thailand's always the champions, and Myanmar is dangerous -- we will be the underdogs but if we prepare well, I think we can do something and hopefully we can surprise."