Midfielder Joshua dazzles against Hong Kong
TNP-Dollah Kassim Award winner steals the show with two goals and two assists
FAS U-21 INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE CUP
SINGAPORE U-21 5
(Dhukhilan Jeevamani 17, Joshua Pereira 34, 39, Muhaimin Suhaimi 54, Amiruldin Asraf 59)
HONG KONG U-21 0
The Singapore Under-21 team were out to prove a point heading into their FAS Under-21 International Challenge Cup opener yesterday.
This comes after a poor Nations Cup tournament in Malacca last month, when they were thumped 3-0 by arch-rivals Malaysia and then lost on penalties to Vietnam.
Last night, they gave a good account of themselves with a five-star show, thrashing Hong Kong 5-0 at the Bishan Stadium.
The young Lions will play Iran, essentially fielding an Under-19 side, in the quadrangular's final at the same venue on Saturday.
Midfielder Joshua Pereira, who was last year's The New Paper-Dollah Kassim Award winner, was the standout player last night, scoring twice and setting up two other goals.
Remarkably, the 19-year-old had just recovered from a hamstring injury.
School commitments - he is a second-year hospitality and tourism management student at Temasek Polytechnic - also meant he missed Monday night's training and had to be in school from 9am to 4pm, before training on the eve of the match.
"Yes, I would say it's one of my better performances," said Joshua, with a wide grin after the game.
"I'm happy, but I know I have to keep my feet on the ground. My focus, and the team's focus, is now on Saturday."
Singapore U-21 coach Richard Tardy said he was happy with Joshua's contribution, but added the youngster had more to offer.
"He started slowly in this game," said the Frenchman. "But we have five or six players in this team who are students, like him.
"It's not good preparation for an international game, but Joshua played well tonight."
Joshua had a superb all-round display from the middle of the park, not afraid to put in the tackles and also showing a desire to make lung-bursting runs forward to support the attack.
In the 17th minute, he made a late run into the box and saw his shot deflected out for a corner, which he then flicked on for Dhukhilan Jeevamani to open the scoring from close range.
Then, in the 34th minute, Joshua doubled the lead, showing good balance to jink past Hong Kong captain Lau Hok Ming and fire a shot that cannoned in off the upright.
Five minutes later, he made a deep run from midfield, beating the Hong Kong offside trap to latch onto Amiruldin Asraf's dinked pass, before coolly slotting home to make it 3-0.
The Joshua show continued in the second half when he beat one defender, cut inside a second, and set Muhaimin Suhaimi up for Singapore's fourth goal.
Amiruldin then rounded up the rout with a clinical finish in the 59th minute, after the Hong Kong defence lost possession of the ball sloppily.
Tardy's boys were better than their Hong Kong counterparts in every area of the pitch.
The defence, marshalled by the vocal and aggressive captain Shahrin Saberin, did not allow a single shot on target, while left back Dhukhilan made his presence felt with a number of crunching challenges.
The midfield was run by Joshua and Adam Swandi, while up front, striker Amiruldin worked his socks off.
Adam and Amiruldin were later singled out for praise by their coach, who, surprisingly, was not fully satisfied with his team's performanace.
"I am happy with the win and the score, but not so much about how we played," said Tardy.
"Football is about technique, intelligence and movement... Goals like the third one we scored tonight is what I want to see more of.
"We did what we needed tonight, but we must do more next time. At the beginning of both halves, we did not start too well."
"It's tough to accept this result. I never expected such a big scoreline," said Hong Kong coach Kim Pai Gon, a South Korean.
"I was quite surprised by Singapore's performance.
"When I saw their players, I had confidence in our physical size. But in duels, they won everything. Even my 1.80m-plus player could not win headers."