SINGAPORE: Singapore suffered their first defeat in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 on Saturday (Nov 18) after losing 2-0 to Thailand at the National Stadium.
First half goals from Elias Dolah and Supachai Chaided gave Thailand the win and top spot in Group A.
Singapore started the game the brighter of the two sides, up against an opponent that had opted to make 11 changes, which include omitting stars such as Chanatip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan.
In a first half peppered with stoppages and injuries - mostly notably to Lions defender Shakir Hamzah - midfielder Hami Syahin came close, only for his shot to be parried away.
The Thais took the lead in the 30th minute as Dolah bundled home after a Hassan Sunny parry fell kindly to him.
Supachai then doubled the away side’s lead, slamming past Hassan just before half-time.
Singapore showed they were not out of it yet, as Ikhsan Fandi burst through on the flank early in the second half but could not find support.
Then it was the Thais who fashioned a chance of their own, but substitute Philip Roller’s shot was blocked.
The best chance for the Lions in the second half fell to defender Irfan Fandi off a free kick in the 74th minute, but he could not direct his left footed effort on target.
Speaking at a highly-charged post-match press conference, Yoshida said his team did well but could have focused better on the "small details".
"The boys' performance, I think (there was) no problem, but some small details were not enough. Some small details - dealing with counter-attack, quality of crossing, quality of through balls," he added.
Asked about fans' frustration about the performance and a section of fans booing the team after the loss, Yoshida was visibly upset.
"I think Singapore football is on the way to improve ... (It is) our first time for nine years, we go to the semi-finals. So I feel very sad (about the reaction)," said Yoshida, who went on to cut short the press conference.
"I'm proud of them always. We have to work together to improve Singapore football. I love Singapore. Singaporeans must believe in them, must believe in football."
The Lions had confirmed their spot in the semi-finals earlier this week, after the Philippines’ 1-2 defeat to Thailand meant that they did not have to wait for their group stage clash against Timor-Leste. Previous wins against Myanmar (3-0) and the Philippines (2-1) were enough.
Singapore would go on to beat Timor-Leste 2-0 on Tuesday.
The Lions' opponents in the semi-finals of the tournament have yet to be confirmed, with Group B still wide open.
Going into Sunday’s games, Indonesia currently top the group on goal difference ahead of Vietnam. Both have seven points.
Malaysia sit third with six points and will be facing the Indonesians. A victory for the Harimau Malaya will book a spot in the semis.
Vietnam will face Cambodia in the second of the two games on Sunday.