Football: All square but Lions in good stead

Khairul Nizam celebrating after scoring the opening goal in the Sultan of Selangor's Cup. The forward provided the assist for Singapore's equaliser against Myanmar.
Khairul Nizam celebrating after scoring the opening goal in the Sultan of Selangor's Cup. The forward provided the assist for Singapore's equaliser against Myanmar.ST FILE PHOTO

Myanmar friendly ends 1-1, but Sundram takes the positives ahead of qualifier

It was meant to be a closed-door friendly, a test bed for new tactics and an immersion programme for international rookies in preparation of more important football matches ahead.

And in yesterday evening's 1-1 draw against Myanmar played to empty stands at the Jalan Besar Stadium, national coach V. Sundram Moorthy had found clues to what repairs are needed before Saturday's Asian Cup qualifier against Chinese Taipei at the same venue.

Although the Lions trailed to Aung Thu's 69th-minute goal until the last minute, substitute winger Nazrul Nazari volleyed home the equaliser in stoppage time to ensure that the home side do not have to mope over a defeat over the next three days.

The fact that it was reserve forward Khairul Nizam who whipped in the cross for Nazrul to strike did not elude Sundram's attention, who said: "It is good to see other players show up for selection and fight for their places.

"It was an excellent cross from Nizam and a fantastic first-time shot by Nazrul. This goal is a boost for the boys' morale."

Myanmar landed a sucker punch when a Singapore short corner routine broke down and the ball was intercepted by Tin Win Aung, who charged half the length of the pitch to play fellow midfielder Aung through and beat the onrushing goalkeeper Hassan Sunny.

That it was a counter-attack that floored the Lions, with five Myanmar players surging forward against two Singapore defenders, had Sundram acknowledging the "lapses". And he will be rectifying this during training, especially as he had described Chinese Taipei as a team who play a crisp short-passing game that could drag the Lions out of position.

Still, there were bright sparks for the hosts.

The work rate of midfielder Yasir Hanapi, the handling and distribution of Hassan Sunny and the consistency of 39-year-old centre-back Daniel Bennett.

Sundram also praised 19-year-old centre-back Irfan Fandi, saying the youngster "stood out".

"Overall, we were the better team," the coach noted.

"We had the better chances and more possession. But they (Myanmar) hit us on the break because our corner was not delivered.

"Most importantly, we hit the target a few times and the boys are in good spirits."

Saturday's match will be the second Asian Cup third-round qualifier. The two teams are in Group E, alongside Bahrain and Tajikistan, in the draw, with the top-two finishers earning berths to the 2019 finals which will be hosted in the United Arab Emirates.

Singapore had started its campaign on a positive note with a 0-0 draw against Bahrain in Manama in March.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'All square but Lions in good stead'. Print Edition | Subscribe