SINGAPORE: Fandi Ahmad got the first win of his tenure as the Singapore national team's coach on Tuesday (Sep 11) after a 2-0 win over Fiji, with goals coming from his son Ikhsan Fandi and captain Hariss Harun.
It was their second international friendly at Bishan Stadium, in the lead-up to preparations for the 2018 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup in November.
Fandi stayed true to his words from pre-match and made seven changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Mauritius last Friday, with 18-year-old Jacob Mahler making his debut on Tuesday.
The game also saw Gabriel Quak make his first appearance in national colours in more than a year, while Warriors midfielder Ho Wai Loon came on in the second half for his first Singapore cap as well.
"(I am) very happy for Jacob Mahler. He's one of the best (players on the pitch) today, fighting hard inside," Fandi said of the young midfielder after the game.
"He's a true professional at 18 ... He never reacts, he never retaliates (despite getting kicked).
"His lung is bigger than a lot of our players. He can run and run. He looks very clumsy and slow, but he gets stuck in and is not afraid. I think he has a good future."
Singapore were hardly troubled by a Fiji side which stands 165th in the FIFA ranking - four spots above the Lions - apart from an early scare that came in the second minute.
Roy Krishna - one of the only two professional footballers in the Fiji team - was left unmarked inside the danger area for a shot, but goalkeeper Hassan Sunny pulled off a decent save.
The Lions had their first chance in the 11th minute, with Ikhsan's effort taking a heavy deflection before it was hacked off the line.
It was from the resulting corner that they broke the deadlock though, as Hariss met Zulfahmi Arifin's delivery with a thumping header.
The lead was doubled just over a minute later, with Ikhsan producing a composed finish his dad would have been proud of, after breaking the offside trap to latch onto a glorious pass from Gabriel Quak.
The Fijians slowly grew into the game after that, pinging the ball around. But they were unable to carve out any clear opportunities against the backline marshalled by Baihakki Khazan and Irfan Fandi.
Instead, it was Singapore who came closest to scoring again in the 71st minute. A well-worked move saw Khairul Amri set his fellow substitute Shahril Ishak up for a volley, which Fiji goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube did well to stop.
Neither side were able to find the net after that and Singapore were able to see off 10-man Fiji, who had Kolinio Sivoki sent off after he jutted his knee into Mahler's back late on.
Fandi said after the match that he was happy with the team's overall performance and added he was glad to see the young players "stepping up very well".
"This (win) will settle down a lot of youngsters. We want them to get the confidence ... They got a win and this will bolster them," said Fandi.
"The commitment was there, the camaraderie was there. But there's still a long way to go ... We need to tighten up the midfield. It takes time but we don't have much FIFA dates."
Fandi also cautioned against expecting too much from the team, particularly at the Suzuki Cup.
"Football is a funny game. Yesterday you may have played well, but tomorrow you don't play well. It's good to stay positive and we hope (the fans) will support us.
"We will do our best but we can't promise you (much). If we were to go down though, we will go down fighting."
Tuesday's victory was also the Lions' second this year, having gone through the whole of 2017 without any wins.