Hassan primed to nail down place

Hassan Sunny is determined to be new coach Sundram's first-choice goalkeeper. The 32-year-old plays for Thai Premier League club Army United and was named by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th-best custodian in the world in April.
Hassan Sunny is determined to be new coach Sundram's first-choice goalkeeper. The 32-year-old plays for Thai Premier League club Army United and was named by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th-best custodian in the world in April.TNP FILE PHOTO

Hassan keeps No. 1 spot for AYA Bank Cup final after good show and with Izwan injured

After more than a decade of trying to establish himself as Singapore's first-choice goalkeeper, Hassan Sunny made a breakthrough when he started in caretaker national coach V. Sundramoorthy's first game in charge.

Although he has 53 caps in 12 years, untimely injuries and an in-form Lionel Lewis and later, Izwan Mahbud, have blocked his way to the No. 1 position. Last Friday's 1-0 victory over Myanmar in the AYA Bank Cup was only his third international start since 2014.

And Sundram will start the 32-year-old again in today's final against Vietnam in Yangon's Thuwunna Stadium as Izwan is out with a wrist injury.

Hassan, who plays for Thai Premier League club Army United and was named by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th-best goalkeeper in the world in April, said: "I appreciate the opportunity given by coach Sundram. In his first game in charge, he placed a 100 per cent trust in me.

"What I needed to do was to just give my best, perform to my standards and do whatever I can. It's good that we won the first match and the clean sheet was very important. I'm looking forward to the final game.

"I'm not sure whether coach Sundram will stick with me (in future games) but at the moment, I'll just take whatever opportunity is given to me and make full use of it."

Hassan, who was in inspired form to keep Myanmar at bay last week, was lauded by Sundram but the coach added that the goalkeeping position is still up for grabs.

The 50-year-old said: "The performance of Hassan was excellent (against Myanmar) and he played a good game for us, but you must understand Izwan also has put in some good performances before.

"Both are very good goalkeepers, both of them are fighting for a place and it's a good problem to have."

Fortune has not always smiled on Hassan in his quest to be Singapore's top goalkeeper. In 2011, when former national coach Raddy Avramovic gave him his big chance, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing for former club Tampines Rovers.

A year later, he tore the same ligament again and was sidelined for the 2012 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, which the Lions won.

On trying to nail down his starting spot, Hassan said: "Any opportunity available, I'll take full advantage of it to become the No. 1. To claim that spot would be nice.

"But that comes at a later stage and I want to focus on what's coming up for me first."

Tonight, Sundram will be aiming to win his first international trophy. The Lions will face Vietnam, who knocked out Hong Kong.

The Golden Stars are also undefeated in their last five meetings against the Lions but Sundram is rallying his troops for another counter-attacking display, just like their smash-and-grab operation against Myanmar.

"Vietnam are a solid side but for us, the important thing is to play to our boys' strengths," he said.

"The players must be tactically be ready to absorb (waves of attacks from Vietnam) and find a solution to come out unscathed. Against Myanmar, we wanted to have quick breaks and not keep much possession.

"In a way, you can say we sit back and defend but we are relying on counter-attacks to go forward and have a shot on goal. More or less, we understand what we can expect with Vietnam and have a game plan."

SINGAPORE V VIETNAM

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'Hassan primed to nail down place'. Print Edition | Subscribe