Singapore open SEA Games campaign with 1-0 win over Philippines
Hosts Singapore opened their Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Group A campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday night.
Defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi netted the lone goal of the game on 45 minutes but the home side failed to capitalise on their superior possession, wasting several good scoring chances. Roared on by a partisan crowd, the Young Lions were in full control from the opening whistle, with LionsXII duo Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi pulling the strings in attack.
Aide Iskandar's team had the first big opportunity in the eighth minute when Shamil Sharif played a through ball to Stanely Ng. But the Home United forward saw his shot straight into the arms of Florencio Badelic Jr.
Two minutes later, it was Faris Ramli who turned provider when his delightful chip fooled the Azkals' defence only to see Sahil's firm header nestle into the arms of the keeper.
Philippines recorded their first attempt in the 15th minute when Paolo Salenga deftly turned Shakir Hamzah before firing a shot that sailed over the bar. The Filipinos began to grow in confidence and recorded anther decent attempt on 27 minutes. Paolo Bugas' curling cross found captain Gerardo Valmayor who headed wide with only Syazwan Buhari to beat.
Shakir thought he scored in the 31st minute from a Safirul Sulaiman free-kick, only for Japanese referee Hiroyuki Kimura to disallow because of a Singapore infringement. The crowd were up in arms again six minutes later when Sahil checked past Neil Dorimon but Badelic got his fingertips onto the ball to push it off the left post.
Young Lions' dominance was finally rewarded with a set-piece goal from Sheikh right at the stroke of half-time. Safirul Sulaiman sent in a lovely cross that went over the Philippines' defence to an unmarked Sheikh, who glanced it in for a 1-0 lead at the break.
Yet the Philippines almost levelled the game in the 56th minute. Francisco Jose Primo Santos and Salenga made their way down the right in tandem, to leave Santos with a clear path on goal, but Syazwan stood tall to palm the ball away.
Singapore's Malaysia FA Cup hero Sahil had a glorious chance on 64 minutes after some smart work by substitute Irfan Fandi down the right. But after a brilliant cut-back played into his path, Sahil inexcusably skewed his shot wide of the mark.
It was Irfan's turn to try his luck when he chested down a 72nd minute cross-field ball from Safirul before stinging the gloves of Badelic, who turned it out for a corner. The ball just refused to go in for Sahil, when his 80th minute shot squirted wide across the Jalan Besar turf as he looked to the skies in disbelief.
Singapore will now turn their attention to Myanmar on Thursday while Philippines take on Cambodia a day earlier at the same venue.
Singapore U23: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Al-Qaasimy Rahman (C), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, M. Anumanthan, Shakir Hamzah, Shamil Sharif (Irfan Fandi 35"), Safirul Sulaiman, Stanely Ng (Amy Recha 66"), Faris Ramli, Adam Swandi, Sahil Suhaimi (Suria Prakash 83").
Philippines U23: Florencio Badelic Jr (GK), Neil Dorimon, Fitch Johnson Daviz Arboleda (Nathanael Andrew Alquiros 65"), Julian Mariano Clarino, Arnel Amita, Paulo Bugas, Jaime Vicenzo Cheng (Daniel Bernan Gadia 37") (Kennedy Uzoka 78"), Paolo Salenga, Francisco Jose Primo, Shirmar Felongco, Gerardo Lii Valmayor (C).