Wayward shooting is costly

Wayward shooting is costly
Defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi (far right) heading Singapore into the lead against the Philippines to get the SEA Games hosts off to a 1-0 winning start in the football competition.

THE three points were claimed, but Singapore coach Aide Iskandar was left with more questions than answers after their SEA Games football opener last night.

The Philippines, arguably the weakest team in Group A, should have been dispatched earlier and with more ease.

With goal difference likely to be a factor later on, the hosts will rue their profligacy in front of 7,500 raucous fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Just nine minutes in, Stanely Ng found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Florencio Badelic.

But the winger's effort was weak and straight at the custodian, earning a glare from Aide and groans from the crowd.

Composure in the box seemed to be the issue, as the Young Lions stroked the ball around with ease and penetration in their build-up.

A visibly displeased Aide responded after 36 minutes, sending on 1.87m-tall target man Irfan Fandi for out-of-sorts midfielder Shamil Sharif.

But it was left to centre-back Sheikh Abdul Hadi to put the ball in the net just before the break.

Rising highest to meet Safirul Sulaiman's inswinging free-kick, the 23-year-old glanced his header past Badelic, who was out of position.

Striker Sahil Suhaimi, the LionsXII's two-goal hero in their 3-1 Malaysian FA Cup triumph over Kelantan just over a week ago, should have extended the lead.

Near the hour mark, the forward lay on the turf for 20 seconds in disappointment, after sending his strike just past the post from 10m out and with no defenders close to him.

He ended the match with five attempts wide of the mark.

The speedster was, however, a menace for his markers, to the point that he was harshly tackled on three separate occasions in the first half.

The Filipinos, featuring mainly university talent, parked the jeepney for sustained periods and it took the Azkals 57 minutes to register their first shot on goal.

Aide, meanwhile, has several issues to address ahead of Singapore's next match against Myanmar on Thursday.

For one, he will want to see his side - particularly Sahil - sharpen up in front of goal.

Judging by last night, ball possession was not a concern but against stiffer opposition, his marauding midfielders will be susceptible to counter-attacks.

Adam Swandi - deployed as Singapore's deep-lying playmaker - was a livewire in the middle, but his team-mates did not cover for the 19-year-old when he pushed forward.

The Philippines were presented with several openings against the run of play but lacked that final incisive pass.

Shamil's disappointing showing as a support striker could also mean Irfan gets his chance from the start against Myanmar.

Singapore had also opened the 1993 Games on home soil with a win over the Philippines. The scoreline then, however was a resounding 7-0.

If Aide's men had brought their scoring boots, history could have repeated itself last night.

nsanjay@sph.com.sg

Philippines 0

Singapore 1


This article was first published on June 2, 2015.
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