Lions' goal drought continues
Visitors waste chances but Sundram says clash in Kowloon will benefit players at Suzuki Cup
HONG KONG 2
(Alexander Akande 42, Huang Yang 70)
For the second time in five days, V Sundramoorthy's Singapore side created more chances than their opponents.
And for the second time, they left the pitch without converting any of them.
Last night, the Lions fell to a 2-0 defeat by Hong Kong in an international friendly at the Mong Kok Stadium in Kowloon.
The loss came after a 0-0 draw with Causeway rivals Malaysia at the National Stadium last Friday, a game which Singapore dominated and hit the woodwork on three occasions.
The blanks fired last night mean the team have now gone 233 minutes without scoring.
The Lions' last goal came when Safuwan Baharudin scored in a 3-1 defeat by Bahrain in Riffa on Sept 1.
Speaking to The New Paper after last night's encounter, Sundram preferred to take the positives out of the match, saying it was a good test for his charges ahead of next month's AFF Suzuki Cup in the Philippines.
"It was a very good game, very exciting and there were chances for both teams," said the coach.
"The difference is that Hong Kong took their chances while we didn't manage to convert ours.
"This match is good preparation for the Suzuki Cup, which we will also be playing away."
Sundram, known for setting his teams up to be hard to break down, sprang a surprise by naming two strikers in his starting line-up.
Irfan Fandi (above), the 19-year-old son of local icon Fandi Ahmad, was handed his senior international debut, spearheading the Lions' attack alongside veteran Khairul Amri.
Irfan's introduction into the team was one of six changes from the Malaysia game, as Sundram looked to run the rule over his options ahead of the Suzuki Cup.
And the new faces looked eager to impress, with Singapore starting the match brightly and dominating the opening 15 minutes.
The hosts eventually grew into the game and Nigeria-born striker Alexander Akande - one of seven naturalised players in the Hong Kong starting line-up - beat the offside trap in the 33rd minute and slid the ball under goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, only for Baihakki Khaizan to hack the effort clear.
The Singapore defence did not heed the warning and, three minutes before half-time, Akande latched onto a pass by Lam Ka Wai, held off Daniel Bennett, and fired beyond Izwan's reach to put Hong Kong ahead.
Sundram's team began the second half as they did the first and fashioned a number of opportunities, but failed to force Yapp Hung Fai into much action.
And they were punished in the 70th minute when Huang Yang had acres of space on the edge of the box to drill a shot past Izwan.
The Lions kept pushing for a goal and created three good opportunities in stoppage time.
Iqbal Hussain was denied by a fingertip save by Yapp, while Yasir Hanapi saw two efforts from promising positions inside the box go wide.
The defeat means Sundram has now won one, drawn one, and lost four 'A' international games since he was appointed national coach in June.
It was a very good game, very exciting and there were chances for both teams.
- Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy (above)
Anumanthan proves his worth
V Sundramoorthy's message to his men before last night's game was simple: Show me what you've got.
Ahead of next month's AFF Suzuki Cup in the Philippines, the national coach wanted to see his charges fight for places in his squad.
While the result against Hong Kong at the Mong Kok Stadium in Kowloon was one to forget - Singapore lost 2-0 - there were a few reasons to be upbeat.
Among them were the performances of Hougang United duo M Anumanthan and Iqbal Hussain.
Anumanthan (above), 22, made just his eighth appearance in a Lions shirt, but did not look out of place alongside skipper Hariss Harun in the heart of midfield.
He put in some tigerish tackles, was not afraid to carry the ball forward, and found his attacking teammates with good, raking passes on a couple of occasions.
"I'm happy to be given a chance and I knew I had to put in nothing but my best," he told The New Paper, after the match.
"I enjoyed the match, and my (senior) teammates were constantly encouraging me and other young players like Iqbal and Irfan (Fandi).
"While we did not manage to get the result we wanted, we had scoring opportunities and also covered each other as a team.
"We also showed courage and aggression against physically strong opponents.
"I believe we are getting better and I'm confident that we will be well prepared by the time the Suzuki Cup kicks off."
Iqbal, meanwhile, found the going tough at the beginning, but grew into the game in the second half.
The 23-year-old forward had more joy in central areas, showing a great touch to turn and fire just over in the 69th minute, before forcing Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung Fai into a good save in stoppage time.
"I was very happy to be in the starting line-up for the first time," said Iqbal, after earning his third cap.
"I would like to thank (national coach) Sundram and (assistant coach) Fandi Ahmad, the backroom staff and management for their guidance and belief in me.
"They have always supported me and I am determined to keep working hard and succeed at the top level.
"This has been a positive year for me and for that, I must also thank my coaches at Hougang, including coach Bala (K Balagumaran)."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ