Singapore avoided defeat for the first time in a long time against Bahrain on Tuesday evening as the teams played out a goalless draw.
There was plenty at stake as Bahrain hosted Singapore at the National Stadium in Eaat Riffa in the first round of AFC Asian Cup qualifying fixtures.
Turkmenistan were top of Group E after their convincing 3-1 victory against Chinese Tapei on Sunday and so both teams would have been keen on keeping tabs on the early pace-setters.
Much was made of Bahrain’s physicality in the build-up to this fixture.
“It’s always a physical game against Bahrain, we have to be strong and ready to last the full 90, 95 minutes. Then when we have the ball, we have to try to create chances and take them,” were the words of Singapore’s influential midfielder and captain Harris Harun on Monday.
And the encounter turned out to be the stalemate that many were expecting as neither side seemed willing to risk conceding in a bid to score at the other end.
While Bahrain were not at their best, Singapore deserve credit for the intensity they played at.
Singapore XI: Hassan (GK), Faritz, Irfan, Bennett, Shakir, Juma’at, Izzdin, Hariss (C), Yasir, Safuwan, Amri pic.twitter.com/iaSWeWutCl
— FAS (@FASingapore) March 28, 2017
Led by Harun, they were dogged and determined and ensured Bahrain had next to no space in the final third of the pitch.
Bahrain’s best chance of the match came moments before half-time as Ahmed Abdulla Ali was unable to hit the target from close range when it seemed easier to score than not to. He snatched at his attempt and pulled it wide.
While Singapore never enjoyed much possession and were defending for most of the 90 minutes, they started brightly and had a flurry of chances in the first 20 minutes.
The most clear-cut of which fell to Khairul Nizam after some great build-up play by Shakir Hamzah however the move came to nothing as the former poked wide.
The 0-0 result is a significant one.
Singapore have not appeared in the finals of the regional showcase event since 1984 and avoiding defeat against Bahrain for the first time in seven games will give them great confidence as the qualifying fixtures continue.
Both Singapore and Bahrain are tied in second with one point in Group E.