Asian Games: Defence a major letdown

Asian Games: Defence a major letdown

MALAYSIA 8
SINGAPORE 2

It is said that goalkeepers are madmen, who rush in where their teammates fear to tread softly.

Because it is par for their course to put bodies in the line of fire, the man between the sticks often takes it as a personal affront when his wall is breached and a goal is conceded.

A Suresh suffered that ignominy no fewer than eight times yesterday, as Singapore's hockey men were beaten 8-2 by Causeway rivals Malaysia in their opening Group A fixture of the Asian Games.

But this madman, who put in a few point-blank saves, even throwing his body at Malaysian forwards on two occasions, came out of the Seonhak Stadium unfettered.

"We're not demoralised, even though this could be (a dress rehearsal for the 2015) South-east Asia (SEA) Games final," he told The New Paper.

"In last year's SEA Games final, we lost 5-0 to Malaysia but this time, we managed to score twice and conceded only one penalty-corner goal.

"We did well until the end of the first half, then we seemed to lose concentration and started to make careless mistakes."

Ranked 13th in the world to Singapore's 36th, Malaysia were a technically superior side that bossed proceedings from the get go, scoring twice within the first four minutes.

This is the first major tournament in which the International Hockey Federation is utilising its new format of play - four 15-minute quarters instead of two 35-minute halves.

Skipper Enrico Marican (11th) and Silas Abdul Razak (28th) scored to keep Singapore in the game in a hectic first two quarters that ended 4-2 in favour of the Malaysians, but it was downhill from there.

Two goals in each of the last two periods saw Malaysia cruise to victory.

SOFT TURNOVERS

"The scoreline is not of any concern to me, it's purely the small disciplines which we are not paying enough attention to," said coach Solomon Casoojee.

"Too many soft turnovers caught up with us. We lost the ball 66 times in 60 minutes and won it back only 37 times. We thus had to chase a lot of the ball, so the defensive structure wasn't in place as we were attacking.

"It is very disappointing because this is an area we have been working on and focusing on for a long time," he said.

Watching from the stands at Seonhak, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong hopes that The Final Push - a funding programme aimed at plugging gaps in its SportSG's Annual National Sports Association Grant Exercise (ANGE) funding, to give various sports their best chance at striking gold when the SEA Games comes to Singapore next year - can fuel hockey's drive for gold.

"We hope to give them the resources to dedicate themselves to full-time training in the months leading up to the SEA Games, more overseas competition, more exposure and, hopefully with that, they'll be better prepared," he said.

But there is little time to brood.

Casoojee's men face Asian powerhouse South Korea in their second Group A fixture today, and speaking to The New Paper last evening, Suresh hopes to be in the best shape possible.

"To be honest, having back-to-back games will be really tiring and physical recovery is really important," he said. Singapore will hope this madman is at the top of his game today.

"I expect to be quite busy (today), and I hope we can stick to our game plan."

After today's fixture, Singapore will get a day's break before facing Bangladesh on Tuesday.

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sept 21, 2014.
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