Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lions aim to inflict more pain on Thailand

Singapore will be hoping for a repeat of the 2007 showdown when they take on Thailand in the two-legged final of the AFF Suzuki Cup on Wednesday, December 19 at the Jalan Besar Stadium and three days later at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium.

The Lions beat Thailand 3-2 (2-1, 1-1) on aggregate five years ago for their second successive title under coach Radojko Avramovic and their third overall.

They picked up their first Asean crown in 1998 when they shocked Vietnam 1-0 in their own backyard and Avramovic guided them to a 5-2 (3-1, 2-1) aggregate victory over Indonesia in the competition’s first two-legged final in 2004.

Singapore have won every final they have contested in the AFF Suzuki Cup but were humbled two years ago by their failure to qualify for the knockout stage, a 1-1 draw with the Philippines and a 1-0 defeat to hosts Vietnam doing the damage.

Unconvincing in the build-up to this year’s tournament, Singapore nonetheless started their campaign with a bang by beating titleholders, Group B hosts and arch-rivals Malaysia 3-0 on matchday one.

But things did not go to plan in their second game against Indonesia with the Lions playing most of the second half a player down after the dismissal of defender Irwan Shah before conceding a late winner from the boot of Andik Firmansyah.

That loss meant Singapore needed at least a draw in their final game against Laos and again the 90 minutes panned out differently than expected with the tournament qualifiers taking a 2-0 lead with half-time approaching.

But a brace from Shahril Ishak either side of the break pulled Singapore level and goals from Khairul Amri and Fazrul Nawaz gave them an eventual 4-3 victory and top spot in the group on goal difference over Malaysia, who also finished on six points.

Amri scored the only goal of a fiercely contested two-legged semi against the Philippines and along with Shahril, who has bagged four goals, and the evergreen Aleksandar Duric, he has been pinpointed as a potential match winner by Thailand coach Winfried Schafer.

Previous appearances in AFF Suzuki Cup final, Singapore
1998: Vietnam 0 Singapore 1
2004: Indonesia 1 Singapore 3, Singapore 2 Indonesia 1 (Singapore won 5-2 on aggregate)
2007: Singapore 2 Thailand 1, Thailand 1 Singapore 1 (Singapore won 3-2 on aggregate)

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