Viet Nam News
SINGAPORE — The Lions got the big win their coach Fandi Ahmad wished for on Wednesday when they thrashed Timor-Leste 6-1 in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
However, the convincing victory may still not be sufficient to keep their semi-final hopes alive after group leaders Thailand drew 1-1 with the Philippines in the evening’s other game of group B.
The result in Bacolod means that the War Elephants remain top of Group B with seven points from three matches while the Azkals are also on seven points but with an inferior goal difference. Only the top two teams from each group will make the last four.
Singapore are third with six points and will travel to Bangkok needing a good result against undefeated Thailand on Sunday while Timor-Leste’s campaign has come to an end. The Philippines, who are also undefeated, will also complete their fixtures on the same day with a trip to Indonesia, who were knocked out of the biennial tournament following the latest results.
It took Fandi Ahmad’s men 12 minutes to open the scoring at the National Stadium when Zulfahmi Arifin, who started at left-back, floated an in-swinging corner to the far post for centre-back Safuwan Baharudin to score with a downward header.
But that lead lasted just one minute as the Lions lost their focus and allowed unmarked forward Rufino Gama to tap home from a counter-attack.
The hosts restored their lead in the 19th minute when Ikhsan Fandi’s powerful free kick was parried away by goalkeeper Aderito Raul Fernandes but the lurking Safuwan pounced to ram the ball into the net.
In the 30th minute, Ikhsan got his first goal of this AFF Cup campaign when he tapped home following a melee caused by Zulfahmi’s teasing free kick.
And the 19-year-old delivered a show-stopping moment in the 38th minute to send the 18,408-strong crowd wild when he scored with a spectacular bicycle kick after Safuwan had teed him up with a looping header.
The Lions kept up that pressure after the break and after a series of misses, finally bagged another two late goals.
In the 90th minute, Zulfahmi’s corner was headed home by winger Faris Ramli and two minutes into stoppage time, skipper Hariss Harun ventured left and delivered a precise cross for Safuwan to complete his hat-trick with a towering header. The Straits Times/ANN