SINGAPORE: Fandi Ahmad’s Singapore hammered Timor Leste 6-1 at the National Stadium on Wednesday (Nov 21) to keep their hopes of progressing to the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup alive.
A hat-trick from Safuwan Baharudin, a brace from Ikhsan Fandi and a goal from Faris Ramli gave Singapore a comfortable win as the Lions stayed third in Group B on six points, one behind Thailand and Philippines who drew 1-1 in Bacolod City.
The Lions entered the game knowing that anything less than a victory would kill off their chances of moving to the next round, and it took them just 12 minutes as Safuwan headed past Aderito Raul Fernandes.
But the Lions were barely done with their celebrations when Timor Leste got their equaliser as a lightning quick counterattack saw Rufino Walter Gama tap home.
But the home side recovered quickly and Safuwan got his second of the night in the 19th minute as he smashed home a loose ball after Zulfahmi Arifin’s freekick was smothered.
Singapore then made it 3-1 11 minutes later when Ikhsan prodded home after another set-piece was half-cleared.
Fandi’s men were turning on the style at this point and Ikhsan made it 4-1 in the 42nd minute, smashing in a superb bicycle-kick after a header across by Safuwan.
The second half was a much more subdued affair compared to the first, as the away side seemed to regain their composure. The closest the Lions could come to scoring was a fierce shot from substitute Nazrul Nazari which rebounded off the crossbar.
But the Lions found their second wind in the dying embers of the game as substitute Faris found the net in the 90th minute and Safuwan rounded off his virtuoso performance with a neat header.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Fandi said: "We should have scored a few more goals. Second half we had two, three clear chances with Shakir, Faris as well, but this is what we wanted - the three points and a good goal margin.
Singapore’s final group game will be against Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Sunday (Nov 25) while Philippines will travel to Indonesia.
The Lions will need to beat the Thais to confirm their spot in the semi-finals, while a draw could also see them progress should Philippines lose to an already-eliminated Indonesia.
A defeat to the War Elephants will end Singapore's campaign, regardless of results elsewhere.
"We believe in the team and I think we can progress further," said Fandi. "The spirit is good, just stay focused. The Thais are the favourites and we are the underdogs, but we will try to surprise them."