Yasir Hanapi gives Singapore win vs. Cambodia, ends goalless streak
Yasir Hanapi came off the bench to save Singapore from going a seventh game without victory as his second-half goal handed his side a 1-0 win over Cambodia in Sunday's international friendly at Singpaore's Bishan Stadium.
Despite it being their final warmup game before the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup next Saturday, the Lions still failed to fire on all cylinders, and it looked as though the Cambodians could cause another upset.
But in the 70th minute, Yasir reacted quickest to a loose ball inside the opposition area and fired home to hand the Lions a much-needed triumph.
With their last win coming all the way back in June when they defeated Myanmar 1-0, Singapore entered Saturday's game in desperate need of a morale boost before travelling to Philippines this week.
However, it was Cambodia who made the brighter start, with the front trio of Chan Vathanaka, Prak Mony Udom and Keo Sokpheng causing all sorts of problems for the opposition.
Vathanaka, in particular, came excruciatingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 22nd minute when he broke free down the left, and smashed a shot off the underside of the bar from a tight angle.
Sokpheng was next to threaten when he danced through the Lions defence before squaring the ball across the face of goal. But Shakir Hamzah was on hand to make a crucial clearance on the goal line.
Vathanaka came close again in the 43rd minute with a sumptuous free kick that drew an equally brilliant save from Hassan Sunny. Then, Singapore had a chance of their own when Faris Ramli's ferocious first-time drive from 25 yards crashed into the woodwork.
Undoubtedly eager to change things around at half-time, Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy made three substitutions. The introduction of Shahdan Sulaiman added some much-needed creativity in the middle of the park.
Yasir was another who showed positive signs after coming on. He linked up well with Faris to present the winger with an opportunity in the 68th minute, although he pulled his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
But just two minutes later, the deadlock was finally broken as Shakir pushed forward on the overlap and his left-wing cross was cleared only as far as to Yasir.
Despite having numerous bodies in front of him, the Tampines Rovers midfielder kept his cool, and rifled a low shot into the back of the net to hand his side their first goal in four outings.
It then became a matter of whether the hosts could hold out for the win, something that will undoubtedly be required of them in Philippines in a few days' time.
Cambodia did have a couple of opportunities at the death to force the draw. But Khoun Laboravy failed to hit the target after being played through before sending a header over from a corner, paving the way for Singapore to claim a much-needed victory.
"A win is a win," said a content Sundram. "We came back stronger in the second half after making a couple of changes. "But friendlies are just friendlies. The important thing now is our first game against Philippines.
"We'll need both mental strength and knowing our opponents well. We'll put our best eleven out on the field and get ready for [Saturday's] battle against Philippines."
Meanwhile, his opposite counterpart refused to be overly disheartened, despite the defeat.
"This game is just one part of our process, preparing for the Suzuki Cup," said Cambodia boss Lee Tae-hoon.
"In the first half, we created many chances, but our finishing let us down.
"We're still lacking a bit of individual quality but it was a good experience.
"Now, our players will have to continue to work hard as they're still not at 100 percent."
Singapore: Hassan Sunny, Juma'at Jantan (Faritz Hameed 46'), Baihakki Khaizan (Madhu Mohana 23'), Daniel Bennett, Shakir Hamzah (Fahrudin Mustafic 89'), Izzdin Shafiq, Hariss Harun, Faris Ramli, Safuwan Baharudin (Yasir Hanapi 46'), Hafiz Abu Sujad (Safuwan Baharudin 46'), Khairul Amri (Sahil Suhaimi 53')
Cambodia: Um Sereyroth, Sok Sovan, Nub Tola, Soeuy Visal (Nen Sothearoth 46'), Chhin Chhoeun, Sos Suhana (Khoun Laboravy 76'), Chrerng Polroth, Rous Samoeun, Prak Mony Udom (Tith Dina 71'), Keo Sokpheng (Hoy Phallin 76'), Chan Vathanaka
Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.