Ikhsan’s injury caused the Lions’ 3-1 win against Maldives to be dampened

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Ilhan Fandi, a Singapore forward, is seen in action against the Maldives during an international friendly match at Jalan Belar Stadium. (PHOTO: Football Association of Singapore

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s national football team tuned up for next week’s AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup with an encouraging 3-1 victory over the Maldives in an international friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday (17 December).

Head coach Takayuki Nishiigaya won his first home match since April when he scored goals from Ilhan Fandi (his first senior goal for Lions) and Shawal Anuar (2 goals).

But, the Lions’ winning mood was marred by the sight Ikhsan, their key striker, being stretchered off in halftime clutching his right leg. Ilhan and Adam Swandi, midfielder for the Lions, were also seen limping off the bench in the second quarter.

Other than worrying injuries, the Lions (ranked 160th in world) started the match brightly before about 3,000 spectators. In the fourth minute, they took the lead against their opponents, who are ranked at 154th in Fifa’s world rankings.

Ilhan began the move by running on the right flank and laid off for his older brother Ikhsan outside the box. Ikhsan, despite being tripped by the Maldives defenseman, was able to pass to Christopher van Huizen on his left flank.

Ilhan scored with a thunderous header after the winger made a fantastic cross.

Shawal introduced the second wind to Lions

Singapore held a dominant possession lead, but suffered a setback when Maldives got an equaliser in the 17th minutes.

Ibrahim Mahudhee was found in a corner of the left flank by Hamzah Mohammed. He climbed high over van Huizen and headed past Zaiful Nizam.

Ikhsan’s 38th minute injury decimated the Lions, who struggled to gain possession at the half-way mark. Shawal was brought in by Nishigaya for the second half. The bubbly forward’s relentless probing immediately reenergized the Lions.

In the 50th minute, they took the lead once more. Van Huizen’s throw from the left flank reached Song Uiyoung, who sent Shawal a pin-point cross. Shawal then placed a down-header at Shawal’s near goal.

In the 87th minute, the Hougang United veteran doubled his match score thanks to more fine work by the Lions flank. The substitute right-back Ryhan Stuart, who was unable to find his marker, fired a low and precise cross that Shawal could tap in from point blank range.

The Lions will start their AFF Mitsubishi Cup campaign against Myanmar next Saturday (24/12/12) at Jalan Besar Stadium. Vietnam will play at the same venue on the 30/12/12. They will be facing Laos (27 Dec) and Malaysia (3 Jan) away on the group stage.

Nishigaya will announce his 23-man final squad for the AFF tournament Monday.

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