Three Talking Points: Singapore on the right track under Fandi Ahmad

Singapore national team with Fandi Ahmad
Kelvin Leong Kelvin Leong

Kelvin Leong brings up the major talking points after Fandi Ahmad’s first game in charge of Singapore in their 1-1 draw against Mauritius. 

The stage was set for Singapore to usher in a new era under Fandi Ahmad at Bishan Stadium on Friday night and the Lions didn’t disappoint.

After a disjointed start to the game which saw the home team concede after just four minutes, Singapore went on to dominate proceedings and snatched a draw through an Ikhsan Fandi goal.

There was even time to go for the jugular and find a winner but alas, Singapore had to settle for a share of the spoils.

With a game against Fiji coming up on Tuesday, Kelvin Leong reckons the Lions camp will be brimming with confidence as they look to secure their first win under the new lion tamer.

Here are three reasons that there is light at the end of the tunnel for the boys in red.

Singapore football supporters

Fans willing to give Fandi time to work his magic

There were plenty of encouraging words for Fandi and the team after their draw against Mauritius. It is the start to a new regime that the national team needed.

A quick chat with football fans and a look on the social media platforms will show you how Singapore supporters are willing to wait and let Fandi work his way to success.

In his first game, Fandi clearly came out wanting to make a statement that youth is the way forward as he daringly gave debuts to the Suzliman brothers – Zulqarnaen and Zulfadhmi – while giving Ikhsan his first start for the seniors.

It didn’t all go to plan from the get go but as the game progressed, the Lions began to play an attacking brand of football that Fandi has promised to deliver.

The fans reciprocated and played their role as the 12th man to much aplomb and like Fandi said, “We must keep playing good football and the results will come eventually.”

Singapore bench for Mauritius game

Ikhsan-Shahril is a deadly combination

Ikhsan’s first start in a Lions jersey at senior level could have gone awfully wrong had it not been for the introduction of Shahril Ishak.

The 19-year-old tried to breach the Mauritius defence and press their defenders on his own in the first half to no avail. However, things completely changed once Shahril was on the pitch.

The Home United forward was a class above the rest and his body feints and ability to produce moments of magic proved that he is still the go-to guy for the Lions.

I strongly urge you to watch replays of the match if you haven’t done so because that assist from Shahril for Ikhsan’s first international goal was pure brilliance from a footballing mind.

The audacity he had to cheekily wrong-foot the defenders was something we have grown accustomed to from the maestro but he showed his willingness to sacrifice for the team by laying it on a platter for Ikhsan to slot home.

Shahril has to play alongside Ikhsan if Singapore are to dream of a fifth AFF Suzuki Cup title come December.

As Fandi suggested, he may not last a full 90 minutes but Shahril is the game changer that the Lions need and Ikhsan can proof to be the perfect foil for the evergreen forward.

Remember the impregnable Bai-Saf defence of 2012?

Noh Alam Shah and team manager Eric Ong made a trip up to Kuantan to speak to Safuwan about his role under Fandi a couple of months back and that switch back to central defence has already benefited the team after just one game.

Starting against Mauritius alongside Irfan Fandi, Safuwan reprised his centre-back role which brought him to prominence, and his commanding stature and good reading of the game was spot from the first minute.

In the second half, Baihakki Khaizan came on for Irfan and the experienced duo shut out Mauritius’ giant forward Jonathan Justin to bring back memories of their 2012 partnership.

That impregnable centre-back pairing gave Radojko Avramovic and the Lions their fourth AFF title and this time out, Irfan provides an even better tactical option for Fandi to switch to a back-three if he desires.

And when you throw Shakir Hamzah into the mix, Singapore are rock solid as a defensive unit and if Fandi can make the midfield and attacking line click into gear, a fifth title is not beyond Singapore.

But first up, Fiji. Let’s get that win that will hopefully fill the stands for the Suzuki Cup and put the Lions back on track after a torrid few years.