Goalkeeper Hassan impresses despite heavy defeat
SINGAPORE SELECTION 0
(Andrea Pirlo 16, 44-pen, Paul Pogba 48, Sebastian Giovinco 53, Kwadwo Asamoah 72)
The good news is, football is back at the National Stadium at Kallang.
The Singapore Selection huffed and puffed but it was Serie A champions Juventus who raised the biggest cheers, lighting up the evening with five world-class goals in the first football match at the brand new coliseum of the Sports Hub.
When the Kallang Wave got going and a familiar growl emerged as the foundations trembled with stomping feet, the 27,338-strong crowd that turned up got an inkling of what it would be like when 55,000 pack into the National Stadium to cheer on the Singapore national team.
Hassan Sunny could well be starting for the Lions then.
The goalkeeper was singled out by Juventus forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Fernando Llorente after his superb display in the first half.
"The Singapore goalkeeper was everywhere, and he was a big reason we couldn't score more," said Giovinco.
Llorente added: "He is fast to react to the danger."
Hassan chalked up four top-drawer saves to deny Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Roberto Pereyra and Giovinco before he was replace by Izwan Mahbud in the 72nd minute.
But he could only watch in despair as man-of-the-match Pirlo cleverly slid a 16th-minute free-kick underneath the jumping five-man wall and into the bottom corner.
The 30-year-old custodian of S.League giants Warriors FC was also hapless against a Pirlo penalty in the 44th minute.
Hassan, sporting abrasions after sliding around on the sandy pitch, said: "I tried my best to organise our defence, but Juventus' movement was top class. Llorente was always running between our centre backs Baihakki (Khaizan) and Safuwan (Baharudin), so that created some confusion.
"And Giovinco kept running behind our defensive line to try to capitalise. Both our attack and defence can benefit from watching the replays of this match."
Pogba bent the ball past Hassan three minutes after the break and Giovinco finally got his goal after volleying Pirlo's long corner straight into goal from the edge of the box in the 53rd minute.
Kwadwo Asamoah completed the scoring in the 72nd minute after the Singapore side's defence failed to clear Jose Martin Caceres' cross.
Left-back Shakir Hamzah said: "We were not nervous despite the historic occasion, but on the ball, we can learn from their composure, passing, movement and pressing.
"Even though it was a friendly, they didn't give us much time and space. There were always players closing us down.
"It's not just about fitness, we need to improve our understanding. But I believe we can get there."
The closest the local side, led by national coach Bernd Stange, came to scoring was through a fast break in the 50th minute.
Faris Ramli intercepted a stray pass and threaded a pass for skipper Shahril Ishak down the right. The Singapore captain, who had a fine game, baffled Pirlo with a dummy, but his cut back was blazed over by Faris.
Zulfahmi Arifin later got the hosts' only shot on target with a shot straight at Marco Storari just before the final whistle.
Midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, who did well to spray passes around from central midfield early on, said: "The result shows we are still far from international standard but we showed glimpses of what we can do.
"We need to keep and make use of the ball better, as well as improve our off-the-ball movement."
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri used most of his stars except for Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal.
"The condition of the field was not perfect... Tevez was rested as a precaution because we wanted to avoid injuries on this sandy pitch.
"As for the Singapore team, it is not easy for a selection side to play together. Football in Singapore is still developing and improving, so give them time."
With the end-of-year Suzuki Cup looming, Stange was clear about what needs to be done not just for a successful title defence, but also to close the gap on top teams like Juventus.
He labelled a number of local players as "semi-professionals" even "close to amateurs", and said only more training time will help them improve.
"To score the goals Juventus did tonight, it's not just God-given talent, it's training," said Stange, who wants the Lions to train three times a week at the National Stadium to prepare for the Suzuki Cup.
"There are things we have to solve in the next couple of years. We don't just want a top-class football stadium.
"When players 19 to 21 years old and semi-professionals like Al-Qaasimy Rahman come back from National Service, my expectation is limited.
"We need full professional training and more practice. If we can't deliver that, we can't move forward.
"And we need to continue with our way - building play from the goalkeeper, one-touch passing and possession."
- SINGAPORE SELECTION: Hassan Sunny (Izwan Mahbud 72), Al-Qaasimy Rahman (Sahil Suhaimi 59), Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah (Faris Ramli 46), Shahril Ishak (Iqbal Hussain 70), Hariss Harun (Afiq Yunos 79), Shahdan Sulaiman (Zulfahmi Aridin 59), Sirina Camara (Shaiful Esah 86), Nicolas Velez (Gabriel Quak 90), Miroslav Pejic (Shahfiq Ghani 66)
- JUVENTUS: Gianluigi Buffon (Marco Storari 46), Stephan Lichsteiner (Luca Marrone 53), Leonard Bonucci (Giorgio Chiellini 46), Angelo Ogbonna (Jose Martin Caceres 46), Patrice Evra (Kwadwo Asamoah 46), Andrea Pirlo (Marco Motta 59), Paul Pogba (Carlos Blanco Moreno 81), Mattia Vitale (Claudio Marchisio 46), Roberto Pereyra (Sergio Buenacasa 74), Fernando Llorente (Simone Pepe 59), Sebastian Giovinco
- Shots: Singapore Selection 1 on target, 3 off target, Juventus 13 on target, 5 off target
- Corners: Singapore Selection 1, Juventus 6
- Yellow cards: Singapore Selection 1, Juventus 1
- Offisde: Singapore Selection 0, Juventus 4
- Attendance: 27,338
- Match rating: 7.5/10
- Referee: Mohd Taqi
- TNP Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo