Lacklustre Victory For Lions

One word describes Singapore’s SEA Games opening match against the Philippines last night: Worrying. The hosts, as expected, walked away from the Jalan Besar Stadium as victors but the 1-0 score line was hardly anything for Aide Iskandar’s side to celebrate.

After all, they were outclassed in every department against a team made up of mostly university students and missing several first-team players to their national team for World Cup qualification duty against Bahrain on June 11.

In a match the Lions were supposed to exert authority, the Philippines instead gave them a lesson on passing, possession and team play.

Singapore’s saving grace came in the 45th minute when Sheikh Abdul Hadi headed home a free-kick from the boot of Safirul Sulaiman. But Faris Ramli’s fumbling of a six-yard free-kick that the Philippine goalkeeper gave away after he illegally handled the ball from a back pass spoke volumes of Singapore’s dire shortcomings.

While typically happy with the three points, Aide struggled to defend Singapore’s performance and conceded they need to improve before their match against Myanmar on Thursday.

“There are areas we should do better,” said Aide. “We had chances to score more goals, which is very disappointing, but we have to give credit to the Philippines because they were very resilient. For me, we got off with a win and have to put this game aside and focus on our next game.”

Faris and Sahil Suhaimi, who respectively scored once and twice in the LionsXII 3-1 Malaysia FA Cup win against Kelantan last week, were a desperate pair whose shots were landing everywhere except on goal.

The coach said they “tried their best” and that comparisons should not be made to their performance in Kuala Lumpur and at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Added Aide: “It is not easy after the win in the FA Cup to replicate their performances. I think Sahil tried but unfortunately missed two great chances to score goals.”

While praising the backline marshalled by Anumanthan Mohan and Sheik Abdul Hadi, a despondent Faris rued the missed opportunities.

“It was disappointing to have won just 1-0 when we created so much chances,” he admitted. “Luck was not on our side today but we need to brush up on our finishing.

“Hopefully in our next game against Myanmar, we’ll be able to get an early goal to settle down, and be able to finish off the game in a convincing manner.”

If Singapore are to make it to the knock-out stages and convince fans they are good enough for a medal hunt, they have to bring their game on Thursday.

A big weakness in Aide’s side, said Singapore fan Ahmad Dinie Farid, is cohesion — something the Filipinos dished out in spades.

Said Ahmad: “It was a lacklustre performance from the team and there was a lack of cohesion and teamwork up front especially. Some of the players seem to be playing for their own glory, especially Sahil and Faris.

“Based on this performance, I think the furthest they can reach is the semi-final. They need to play as a tighter-knit team in order to go further than that.”



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