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 By Kenneth Tan

Safuwan scores to salvage Singapore draw in Hong Kong friendly

Singapore geared up for Tuesday's all-important AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan with a 1-1 draw against Hong Kong in a friendly at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night.

Hong Kong captain Chan Siu Ki gave the visitors the lead in the first minute, but Safuwan Baharudin came off the bench in the second half to score the equalising penalty 14 minutes before the end.

Singapore ended the game with just 10 men, with debutant Emmeric Ong given a straight red right before the end.

Singapore have yet to win in 2017, last tasting victory by beating Cambodia 1-0 last November. They have also yet to score more than a goal in a single game under V Sundramoorthy.

Sundram lined the Lions in an experimental formation, with three at the back. However, before they could settle in, the visitors scored inside the first minute of play.

Left wing-back Lo Kong Wai picked out Chan on the edge of the box, and the 32-year-old needed no second invitation to lash a speculative first-time volley in off the bar.

The effort bounced just a yard beyond the line, and was allowed to stand, despite protests from the Singapore players.

Singapore took some time to recover from the setback. Nazrul Nazari's long-range effort was the only attempt that tested Hong Kong goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng in the first 30 minutes.

The Lions' best chance of the first half fell to Nazrul Nazari on 44 minutes, but he failed to convert.

Receiving Faris Ramli's slide-rule pass, the right winger held off his marker in the box, but his resulting shot was repelled by the onrushing Wang.

Hong Kong almost doubled their lead just before the break, with Alex Akande volleying just over from Jack Sealy's right-wing cross.

Sundram reacted at half-time by bringing on Safuwan for the second 45 minutes. The PDRM FA man immediately made his presence felt by winning a couple of headers in the attacking third.

Safuwan almost netted the equaliser in the 50th minute, but his free kick on the edge of the box was tipped around the post by Wang.

The home side then spurned another excellent opportunity nine minutes later, with Faris denied in a one-on-one opportunity with Wang after going clean through via Hariss Harun's defence-splitting pass.

Singapore then threw on Ikhsan Fandi -- second son of Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad -- for his senior debut as they piled on the pressure in the final 20 minutes.

They would duly grab a deserved equaliser in the 76th minute. With Shakir Hamzah adjudged to have been brought down by Lo in the box, Safuwan stepped up and sent the resulting spot kick down the middle for his seventh goal in 71 caps.

The Lions were on the ascendancy and almost made it 2-1 eight minutes later. Ikhsan was just inches away from converting Shakir's teasing low left-wing cross to make it a dream debut.

Singapore was then reduced to 10 men on 87 minutes, with Ong brandished a straight red for denying substitute Itaparica a clear scoring opportunity.

The Hong Kong substitute stepped up to deliver a peach of a free kick from the edge of the box, but the effort clipped the crossbar before going out.

Despite five minutes of injury time, the sides were unable to find the winner as it ended all square.

Hong Kong will travel across the Causeway to play Malaysia in the Asian Cup qualifiers on 5 September.

Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Irfan Fandi (Madhu Mohana 77'), Daniel Bennett, Zulfahmi Arifin, Emmeric Ong, Hariss Harun (C), Izzdin Shafiq (Shahdan Sulaiman 64'), Shakir Hamzah, Nazrul Nazari (Safuwan Baharudin 46'), Faris Ramli (Shahril Ishak 71'), Khairul Amri (Ikhsan Fandi 71')

Hong Kong: Wang Zhenpeng (GK), Jean-Jacques Kilama, Helio, Tsui Wang Kit (Festus Baise 72'), Jack Sealy (Wong Tsz Ho 46'), Wong Wai (Itaparica 46'), Ju Yingzhi, Lo Kong Wai, Tan Chun Lok (Lam Ka Wai 46'), Chan Siu Ki (C) (Jaimes McKee 64'), Alex Akande (Sandro 46')

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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