Shahril Ishak's consolation goal and Hassan Sunny's performance were the key highlights in a match that the Lions failed to make an impact inOman cruised to a relatively easy 3-1 win over Singapore in the final qualifying match for the 2015 Asian Cup on Wednesday night.
The game played in the Omani capital of Muscat was largely academic with the home side already having sealed qualification and the Lions with only a slim outside chance of sneaking in as the best third-placed team in the competition.
Bernd Stange opted to start Shahfiq Ghani upfront with Shahril Ishak and Faris Ramli in supporting roles. Safuwan Baharudin returned to defensive duties, partnering Afiq Yunos, in place of the suspended Baihakki Khaizan. Fellow LionsXII team-mate Hafiz Sujad was also played in defence in an overlapping full-back role along with Home United captain, Juma'at Jantan, who was making his first appearance under Stange.
It was Oman who started the brightest and were unlucky to be denied a penalty as early as 17 minutes into the game when Ahmad Al-Hosni went to ground after a shove from behind by Safuwan while through on goal.
But Al-Hosni would return to haunt the Lions just moments later. The forward outran Safuwan from a long through ball and found his first shot on goal well-blocked by a determined Hassan Sunny. However, the rebound fell perfectly for Al-Hosni who made no mistake firing straight into the roof of the net.
The goal did little to spring Singapore into action although Hafiz Sujad would be left frustrated by a decent penalty shout three minutes later that went unheard.
Oman themselves were denied a stronger lead going into the half-time break by the woodwork and an in-form Hassan Sunny. The goalkeeper's point blank save from Al-Hosni who looked odds on to double his and Oman's tally inches from the goalline a minute before the end of the first-half, being particularly noteworthy.
But the home side would eventually find a second goal, and they only had to wait five minutes into the second period of play. Qasim Said's shot from inside the penalty box took a slight deflection off of Afiq Yunos' trailing leg, but was enough to wrong-foot Hassan and trickle into the back of the net.
Singapore struggled to hold their defensive shape against an Omani side that had toiled for goals in recent games. A third goal always looked inevitable for the home side and Sami Al Hasani made it happen in the 69th minute, casually tapping in from inside the 6-yard-box.
The Lions did, however, stun the home fans by grabbing a consolation goal against the run of play. Zulfahmi Ariffin's well-timed lob over the Omani defence found Shahril Ishak through on goal, and the Singapore captain did brilliantly to slot home past Ali Al-Habsi in goal.
Shahril's goal was also incidentally the first that the Groub A winners had conceded in the qualifying campaign and was also the first shot on target Singapore had registered against Oman over both qualifying matches.
But the goal did little to spur the visitors on to make for an interesting finish. Singapore end the campaign bottom of Group A with just one win. Their next confirmed international fixture is against Malaysia on August 8 at the new Sports Hub.