Football: Decent show but two penalties kill off Singapore side

Arsenal's Jon Toral (left) tripping over Singapore Selection goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, resulting in a penalty.
Arsenal's Jon Toral (left) tripping over Singapore Selection goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, resulting in a penalty.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

For almost 30 minutes, the Singapore Selection stood firm and were resolute in ensuring that Arsenal would not give them a bruising on their own turf at the National Stadium.

While the 4-0 scoreline suggested that the Gunners had schooled their opposition in last night's match, the men in red gave a good account of themselves with competent passing football and solid defensive work, as Arsene Wenger's men needed two penalties to nail down V. Sundramoorthy's side.

Sundram, known for instilling tactical discipline as a coach, praised his players for their gallant display, saying: "For me, the selection team have done well.

"The boys competed and we were unlucky with the two penalties. If not, it could have been a much more respectable result.

"But performance-wise, you are playing a great team like Arsenal, I think the boys kept the ball and had a good performance."

Centre-back Madhu Mohana added: "We were unfortunate to concede the penalties because that was what killed us. We did well for most of the match and we were tight at the back.

"We had a worse time against Japan in terms of how we had to defend all game. Arsenal found space well and that is something we Singaporeans need to learn how to do."

Last month, Madhu was part of the Singapore national team who endured a blizzard of shots in a gutsy 0-0 draw against Japan in a World Cup qualifier in Saitama.

But while he and defensive partner Baihakki Khaizan excelled at clearing the direct balls Japan launched, they were troubled by Arsenal's sheer pace.

Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were lightning quick when Arsenal broke forward, with full-backs Nazrul Nazari and Shaiful Esah struggling to keep up with their opponents.

In midfield, Safuwan Baharudin, Izzdin Shafiq and Shahdan Sulaiman held their own against the likes of Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini and Francis Coquelin.

What impressed the Kallang crowd was how the Singaporean trio sprayed the ball around and attempted one-touch passes instead of hoofing it clear.

The home side's best player on the night was Nicholas Velez, an Argentinian forward with S-League side Warriors FC, who impressed on the right flank with his trickery.

On the night, nine of the Singapore Selection starters were locals who will form part of the national team facing Syria when World Cup qualifying resumes on Sept 3.

With a decent performance against the Gunners to take heart from, they may well continue their unbeaten run in the qualifiers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2015, with the headline 'Decent show but two penalties kill off S'pore side'. Print Edition | Subscribe