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Friday, Sep 12, 2014

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Football: Singapore's Asian Games hopes rest on the Fab Four

The New Paper | Friday, Sep 12, 2014

Baihakki (above middle) challenges for the ball in the draw against Hong Kong.

SINGAPORE 0

HONG KONG 0

Try as he did, Singapore striker Sahil Suhaimi just could not wriggle his way past a resolute Hong Kong defence and grab another international goal.

Right back Al-Qaasimy Rahman did have the ball in the net in the 64th minute when he buried Hariss Harun's through-ball, but referee Amirul Izwan disallowed the quick free-kick and demanded a re-take. Still, there were plenty of positives for the Singapore team to take from the goalless draw last night before most of them leave tomorrow for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

The spine of the team gave a good account of themselves in front of 1,948 fans at Hougang Stadium and their Asiad hopes will very much depend on this quartet.

HASSAN SUNNY

Goalkeeper

To be fair, Hassan (left) didn't have much to do, facing just one weak shot by Chan Siu Ki in the first half and another from a tight angle by Christian Annan in the second half.

However, the 30-year-old Warriors FC goalkeeper was nearly caught out on the hour mark when Kwok Kin Pong headed Lo Kwan Yee's pinpoint cross onto the perpendicular.

But, by and large, he was a reassuring presence, claiming crosses with authority and coming off his line quickly to foil Hong Kong's counter-attack attempts.

Hassan will need to have three big games if Singapore are to stand a good chance of making it past Tajikistan, Oman and Palestine in Incheon.

BAIHAKKI KHAIZAN Centre back

Hong Kong coach Kim Pang On gave Singapore credit for their fighting spirit and physical play despite being generally smaller in stature.

He singled out 1.90-metre tall centre back Baihakki (above) for praise as the 30-year-old was a towering presence alongside Safuwan Baharudin, gobbling up most of the hopeful punts and was also a threat up front in set-pieces.

If Baihakki can maintain his form and focus, his big-match experience will also be a big plus for Singapore's Asian Games squad.

M ANUMANTHAN

Midfielder

Coming on for Shahfiq Ghani in the second half, the 20-year-old (left) bolstered Singapore's midfield with a much-needed urgency.

With the squad yet to be finalised before they leave tomorrow - it is still unconfirmed whether over-aged central midfielder Hariss Harun would be released by his club (see sidebar) - the selectors should be relieved they can count on Anumanthan.

National assistant coach Aide Iskandar said: "He helped us get a grip in midfield and provided good aggression when Hong Kong were threatening to out-muscle us."

SAHIL SUHAIMI

Striker

Undoubtedly Singapore's biggest goal threat, there were glimpses of Sahil's (left) ability when he went on a few direct runs at defenders and took a few shots from outside the box.

But the 22-year-old lacked quality support and was left to fend for himself all too often, as combination play among him, Shahfiq, Shahdan Sulaiman, Faris Ramli and Fazrul Nawaz were few and far between. He could still make a name for himself at the Asian Games, but Aide said: "It is very important to show clinical finishing. Quality teams won't give us more chances than we had today."

MATCH STATS

Shots: Singapore 3 on target, 7 off target; Hong Kong 2 on target, 3 off target

Corners: Singapore 3, Hong Kong 3

Yellow cards: Singapore 3 (Afiq Yunos, Shahfiq Ghani, Al-Qaasimy Rahman), Hong Kong 4

Offsides: Singapore 2, Hong Kong 4

Attendance: 1,948

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Amirul Izwan (Malaysia)

TNP Man of the Match: Hariss Harun

LINE-UPS & RATINGS

SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny 6.5, Al-Qaasimy Rahman 6.5, Baihakki Khaizan 7, Safuwan Baharudin 7, Afiq Yunos 6, Faris Ramli 6.5 (Suria Prakash 87), Hariss Harun 7, Shahdan Sulaiman 7, Fazrul Nawaz 6.5 (Shameer Aziq 66), Shahfiq Ghani 6 (M Anumanthan 46), Sahil Suhaimi 6.5

HONG KONG: Yapp Hung Fai, Lee Chi Ho (Jack Sealy 46), Chan Wai Ho, Fofo Agbo, Cheung Kin Fung (Kwok Kin Pong 46), Christian Annan, Bai He, Lo Kwan Yee (Huang Yang 63), Ju Yingzhi (Leung Chun Pong 46), Lam Ka Wai (Chan Man Fai 63), Chan Siu Ki (Lee Wai Lim 66)


This article was first published on September 10, 2014.
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