Lions denied; Azkals, Malaysia settle for draws

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Singapore were denied a first win in the third round of qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on Tuesday after being held to a 1-1 draw against Turkmenistan at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Lions were initially headed for victory after Shakir Hamzah fired them in front in the 63rd minute, pouncing on a loose ball inside the area and unleashing an unstoppable volley into the back of the net.

Singapore continued to create chances but were unable to make the most of their dominance, with their lack of clinicality meaning their opponents were always in the contest.

Eight minutes before time, they were made to pay as Merdan Gurbanow’s left-wing delivery was converted by Altymyrat Annadurdyyew to earn the visitors a share of the spoils.

The result leaves Singapore bottom of Group E with two points from their opening three matches and it already looks like they have a tough road ahead if they are to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, Malaysia also had to settle for a point after playing out a 1-1 draw with Hong Kong at the Hang Jebat Stadium.

Following a goalless first half, Sandro broke the deadlock for the visitors with a clinical first-time finish in the 53rd minute, following a good run and cross by Jaimes McKee down the left.

However, Syazwan Zainon came to Harimau Malaya’s rescue three minutes later, reacting quickest to score after Safiq Rahim’s initial shot had been deflected into his path.

Malaysia remain bottom of Group B but have a game in hand and could move up to second if they beat DPR Korea on October 5.

Likewise, there was also no victor at the Panaad Park and Stadium, although Philippines’ 2-2 draw with Yemen means they remain top of Group F with a two-point lead.

It was a tricky test for the Azkals as they fell behind to Mudir Al-Radaei’s 27th-minute opener, before captain Phil Younghusband levelled the scores on the half-hour mark.

Yemen then took the lead again ten minutes after the restart; Abdulwasea Al-Matari applying the finishing touches to a lightning counterattack by bursting past opposition goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to score.

Yet, the hosts showed tremendous fight and forced the draw in the 71st minute when James Younghusband came off the bench to head home a Manny Ott freekick.

Finally, Vietnam got their campaign up and running in Group C with a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over Cambodia.

Goals from Nguyen Van Quyet and Nguyen Quang Hai were enough to hand the Vietnamese their first win of the third round as they leapfrogged Cambodia, who scored a consolation via a Chan Vathanaka effort.

There was originally one other qualifier involving a Southeast Asian side scheduled for Tuesday, but Myanmar’s visit to Kyrgyzstan was called off a day earlier due to security concerns.