MANILA - An all-out defensive display helped underdogs Singapore grind out a 0-0 draw against co-hosts Philippines in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup on Saturday (Nov 19) evening.
Played before less than 10,000 fans in the Philippine Sports Stadium outside Manila, the Lions' six-man rearguard frustrated the Azkals even though the home side enjoyed numerical superiority for nearly an hour.
The game was just 34 minutes old when Singapore midfielder Hafiz Sujad was shown a straight red by Syrian referee Massoud Tufayelieh Jamil Naifa for kicking Phil Younghusband in the chest.
Lions vice-captain Hariss Harun said: "The red card was quite surprising. I'm sure Hafiz didn't mean it. With just 10 men, we had to run without the ball quite a bit."
In a drab game, the Philippines' attacking intent was neutralised by Singapore caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy's tactics.
And when the Azkals got close, midfielder Stephan Schrock, who was deployed as a striker, was in the thick of it.
The German-born player's 16th minute free-kick from 30 metres was pushed over the bar by Hassan Sunny and in the 61st minute, he charged into the box but saw his goal-bound shot blocked by Madhu Mohana's lunge. In stoppage time, Schrock delivered a precise corner but left winger Hikaru Minegishi's header was clawed away by Hassan.
Sundram praised his team, saying: "This was all about mental strength, it's about running that extra mile. With 10 players, it was hard to press high up. (I am pleased) with the mental and physical part.
"We were struggling in the last quarter of the game but even if the boys missed something, Hassan was there to clear things up. We got something today and we are confident going forward."
Singapore's next game is against Thailand on Tuesday. Earlier on Saturday, the War Elephants defeated Indonesia 4-2.