SINGAPORE — The Singapore men's national football team were undone by two late goals in their opening 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group F qualifier, falling 1-2 to hosts Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek on Wednesday (8 June).
Despite taking the lead through Song Ui-young, the Lions - ranked 158th in the world - succumbed to two goals in five minutes towards the end of the match after pressure from the world No.95 Kyrgyzstan team.
New Lions head coach Takayuki Nishigaya said after the match that, while he was disappointed with the result, he was happy with the players' effort.
"We were so close (to getting a result) even though we played against a strong team in a tough away game,” said the Japanese, who was taking charge of his first competitive match for the Lions.
"It is a tough result to take, but we still have games coming up and we have a lot to play for. We have to take the steps forward as a team and convert our promise into wins.”
Singapore began the match on the front foot, with Faris Ramli mis-controlling the ball when put clear through by a smart long ball by Shahdan Sulaiman in the fifth minute.
Kyrgyzstan's Erzhan Tokotaev was the busier of the two goalkeepers, as he blocked another attempt by Faris, then made a superb double save to deny Faris and Ikhsan Fandi in the first half.
The Lions had to wait until after the break to open accounts, as Irfan Fandi's beautiful long pass in the 55th minute took out the entire Kyrgyzstan defence, and Song raced clear to round Tokotaev and slot into an empty net.
Stung by the goal, the hosts poured forward in search for an equaliser, and they got their reward when substitute Viktor Maier was fouled in the box in the 77th minute, and captain Valerii Kichin scored from the penalty spot.
Maier proved to be a handful for the Lions defence, and he scored the winner in the 82nd minute, turning in the box and firing past a sea of players into the bottom left corner.
Song had an effort chalked off for an alleged foul on Tokotaev in the 85th minute, as the Lions fell to defeat.
Singapore next play on Saturday again Tajikistan, who were 4-0 victors over Myanmar in the other Group F match on Wednesday.
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