Thursday, December 2, 2010

AFF Suzuki Cup Group B: Singapore 1 Philippines 1

A Chris Greatwitch equaliser in the third minute of injury time help the Philippines to a shock 1-1 draw with Singapore in their opening Group B encounter at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.

It cancelled the lead the Lions took in the 65th minute through Aleksandar Duric who headed home off a Noh Alam Shah assist on the goalline.

The last-gasp goal was unsurprising giving the shocking defending Singapore had consistently displayed, especially when they were caught on the counter attacks.

Credit to the Philippines, who were regarded as many before the tournament as one of the whipping boys, but more on that in another entry.

Let us just focus on the Lions.

The two points lost, as many aggreived Singapore fans could call it, was probably the best wake-up call the national team needed.

Against more credible opposition than initially thought, they found themselves at times on the backfoot as the Azkals poured men forward with nothing to lose.

The back four of Juma'at Jantan, Noh Rahman, Daniel Bennett and Baihakki Khaizan were at times caught flat-footed in defence as the blue shirts countered and exploited the generosity of space left behind by the midfield duo of Fahrudin Mustafic and Shahdan Sulaiman.

While the Lions gradually played the better football as time wore on, much was left to be desired at the other end as well. For all the passing and creativity, the final killer pass and finish was sorely and ominously lacking.

Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was the revelation of the finals with his outstanding performances between the posts. Commanding in the box, the Fulham third-choice custodian was not afraid to rush out and snuff out any potential damage the Lions could throw at him.

The best chance before the opening goal came from Shahdan, who had an impressive outing in his first competitive international start. Showing vision to be at the right place at the right time, his goal-bound chip inside the six-yard box was hacked away by Pinoy centre-back Anton Del Rosario before the ball could bounce further into the net.

Apart from that, Singapore were generally very wasteful in front of goal. The first half was a warning sign of things to come and too many long balls were pumped forward. Same old story once again. Nothing had changed, had it?

The second half saw better Lions passing on the ground, but the defending remained woeful. It only took Singapore this long to be finally punished.

Now it is back to the drawing board for Radjoko Avramovic and his men as their qualification hopes from the group stage plunge into jeporady.

The writer has privately predicted Singapore to exit from the group stage, now this looks to be reality after 8 December.

Only the Lions know what they have to do before more cracks emerge on the pitch for the remainder of the tournament, however long.

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