Shahfiq Ghani was the man of the moment as his goal proved the difference between Singapore and Cambodia in a friendly match at Hougang Stadium on Sunday night.
The game was classed as a senior international friendly, with Fifa ranking points on offer, but in reality both sides fielded Under-23 teams as part of their preparations for next month's SEA Games.
His second-half goal gave Singapore a narrow 1-0 win as the Lions made amends for their earlier defeat after losing to the same opponents in a “B” friendly on Friday night by the same score.
It was the second time both countries faced each other in three days, with a soft goal from Chan Vathanaka in the 72nd minute proving to be the difference in that game.
Under the watchful eyes of national coach Bernd Stange, Singapore struggled to impose themselves against a well-organised Cambodian team despite fielding a strong starting eleven.
Captained by Hariss Harun, the likes of Safuwan Baharudin, Izwan Mahbud, Faris Ramli and Hafiz Sujad were all in action from the start.
But for all their possession and domination, the Lions were unable to unlock Cambodia’s stern defense. They did look dangerous at set pieces, with dead-ball specialist Zulfahmi Arifin the chief architect as his deliveries troubled the Cambodian defense.
In the fifth minute, Zulfahmi’s free-kick reached Hariss, who could only head the ball just over the bar. Zulfahmi then had another opportunity with another free-kick, but this time he shot straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Cambodia, meanwhile, were more than happy to play on the break. In the ninth minute, Phourng Soksana received the ball at the edge of the box, and it needed a last ditch tackle by Safuwan to turn the shot over the bar for a corner.
Unsurprisingly, Singapore’s best chance of the half came from a well-worked corner that reached Sahil Suhaimi outside the penalty box. For once, the Lions had a clean shot on goal, but the striker could only find the side netting.
In the 63rd minute, Afiq Yunos came close to breaking the deadlock after his header from a Zulfahmi corner hit the bar.
Soon after that, Singapore almost found themselves trailing. Cambodian midfielder Sos Suhana had a golden opportunity as he received the ball on the edge of the six yard box, but failed to hit the target.
The visitors were slowly growing into the game and were starting to cause troubles but ironically, that was when Singapore scored. Unsurprisingly, it came from a set piece.
The Cambodian defense failed to clear the lines from yet another Zulfahmi corner, and the ball reached Faris at the edge of the penalty box. The winger chipped the ball to Safuwan, whose looping header was going to the far corner, but Shahfiq made sure the ball went into the back of the net.
The goal then spurred the home side to life as they tried to get another goal, but Cambodia goalkeeper Sou Yati was equal to the efforts that came his way.
In the end, the solitary goal was enough and it was the Lions that came out on top, though the performance would not have impressed many.