Run, run and run? Yasir, no problem
Sundram hails midfielder's high work-rate; young Irfan also shines in defence
He covered every blade of grass, went in hard for tackles and tried to dribble past opponents.
Midfielder Yasir Hanapi put in an all-action display as Singapore held hosts Bahrain to a 0-0 draw in their opening Asian Cup Group E qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).
National coach V Sundramoorthy said of the 27-year-old: "Yasir has a big heart and ran until he could run no more. He did great to give the opponents little breathing space."
Yasir's roommate and skipper Hariss Harun added: "He was like Lionel Messi lah, he was all over the pitch trying to make something happen.
"This is the best I have seen him play for the national team."
Besides playing a key role in shutting down the Bahrain attacks, Yasir proved to be a threat up front too, combining well with winger-for-the-day Safuwan Baharudin to create attacking opportunities.
His set-piece deliveries also improved and found their targets more often than in last week's 2-1 friendly defeat by Afghanistan.
In the 87th minute, he even managed to rob Bahrain's last man Ahmed Ali at the halfway line, but could not fashion a shooting chance as he was already exhausted.
"I was told to help the team stay organised and compact, but was also given freedom by coach Sundram whenever I had the ball," said the Tampines Rovers star.
"I know I need to treasure possession and make full use of it whenever I have it.
"I'm happy to have played a part in the draw and I want to continue to help the national team.
"I haven't always been a regular for the Lions, but I always give my best when called upon."
Yasir may have just 17 caps since his international debut in a 2-2 draw against Malaysia in 2012, but his committed displays have made him a regular in Sundram's starting line-up.
Equally adept in defence and attack, the 1.70m-tall player also has an uncanny ability to score the odd stunner - he once crashed a perfect volley straight into the corner of the net in front of the visiting Pele and Eric Cantona for Geylang in a 3-2 defeat by Young Lions in 2011.
He also scored a peach of a curler for Tampines against Selangor in a 1-0 AFC Cup group-stage win at the National Stadium last May.
"I don't like to sit back, I feel more inclined to support the attack and try to score," said Yasir, whose only international goal came in the 1-0 friendly win over Cambodia last November.
"But, over the years, I have picked up the tactical and defensive aspects of the game. I have learnt that being disciplined and willing to fight and cover for each other on the pitch are the keys to success."
Another player who stood out for the Lions was striker-turned defender Irfan Fandi.
The eldest son of local football legend and national assistant coach Fandi Ahmad, the 19-year-old hardly put a foot wrong alongside 39-year-old Daniel Bennett in central defence in his first competitive match for Singapore on his third cap.
Sundram said: "He is made to be a stopper and, if he stays grounded and continues to work hard, I think we have found a reliable national defender for years to come."
Although he copped an early yellow card in the 21st minute, Irfan underlined his great potential with a crucial interception to stop a dangerous attack outside his penalty area in the 36th minute.
Showing great composure for a teenager, the Home United player often came out tops in aerial challenges and stayed out of foul trouble for the rest of the game.
Over the last two games, he has also shown the intelligence and adaptability to pair up with different centre backs such as Safuwan Baharudin and Bennett.
Irfan said: "It was definitely a competitive debut to remember by keeping a clean sheet and getting a draw against Bahrain who have always beaten us.
"This draw felt like a win and it was even sweeter because everyone played his heart out.
"I was nervous and thought a lot throughout the coach ride to the stadium but, once we started warming up, I became focused.
"Daniel guided me a lot during the game and I learnt a lot from him on how to communicate with my teammates.
"It is a good start for our Asian Cup qualifying campaign and I hope to be able to continue contributing from the back for the national team."