SINGAPORE (9 Nov 2018) – A brilliant first-half strike from skipper Hariss Harun handed four-time champions Singapore a stunning AFF Suzuki Cup 1-0 victory over Indonesia in front of over 30,000 fans at the National Stadium tonight.
Hariss let loose a cracker from the top of the box to secure three crucial points and position Singapore in good stead in the highly competitive Group B. Indonesia, down to 10-men after defender Putu Gede Juni Antara was sacked in the 92nd minute, battled furiously for the equaliser but were unable to break down the Singapore defence. Today’s loss will make it harder for Indonesia to advance as they have tough battles remaining against reigning champs Thailand, the Philippines and Timor Leste.
Singapore coach Fandi Ahmad meanwhile said his players knew what had to be done to put the brakes on Indonesia and tonight, “they did what they were supposed to. For our fans who came down, it was very important that we got the three points.”
Fandi commended his defence and also praised Hariss for his inspiring performance. “He (Hariss) is a solid captain and was everywhere, he fought for every ball.” Not surprisingly, Hariss was later named the Man-of-the-Match.
Some 1,000 plus Indonesian fans travelled for the match and they made their presence from the start where they opened up a huge flag during their anthem. Their players were fired up and some ten minutes later, the fans were screaming in despair when Alberto Goncalves hit the crossbar.
Just before the half-hour mark, Singapore keeper Hassan Abdullah Sunny cleared Stefano Lilypaly’s attempt. The tide began to switch as the Lions began their hunt. After a quickly taken freekick that went astray, Singapore continued to press on struck goal in the 37th minute from a crisp volley from Hariss off a cross from Muhammad Yasir Hanapi.
The battle intensified after the break, it gained pace as Indonesia were in a hurry to get the equaliser. The home fans were on their feet six minutes into the second half when Muhammad Faris Ramli raced forward to pick up a long ball. He deftly flicked over the keeper only to see his attempt hit the crossbar.
As the clocked ticked away, Indonesia grew more desperate. With the Singapore defence impenetrable, the Indonesians, including Alberto Goncalves, Evan Dimas and Irfan Jaya, resorted to long shots, all of which failed to make it through.
“It’s usual that the pressure is high for opening matches. They were all good in training and I really don’t know what happened today. I think it’s a mental issue, as the coach it’s my responsibility to get them ready. I will talk to them individually later,” said Bima Sakti. “I was surprised with Singapore, particularly their transition from defence to attack.
Singapore, winners in 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012, will face the Philippines in Bacolod City on Tuesday while Indonesia, five-time runners-up of this tournament, will meet Timor Leste at the Gelora Bung Karno.