Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Singapore Tame Champions
I don't think many people were expecting this!
Malaysia have come into the AFF Cup on the back of a poor run of results but were expected to turn things around in the competition proper but never got going against a very committed and hard working Singapore signed who signalled their intent from the first minute.
Coach Raddy Avramovic sprung a surprise by opting for Shahril Ishak up top leaving Aleksander Duric and Fazrul Nawaz on the bench. It was a move that paid off with Shahril in fine form alone, netting twice and setting the tempo with his hard work.
The hosts boast four of the best attacking players in the region in S Kunalan, Safiq Rahim, Safee Sali and Norshahrul yet they struggled to get going against a Lions team who pressed high up the field to deprive the quartet of service.
At the back Baihaki Khaizan and Daniel Bennett stood supreme. Baihaki had the best game I had seen from him for a long time, he looked fully committed and focused. And Bennett? He is the Raffles of Singapore football. I don't mean Stamford but a fictional gentleman thief, the embodiment of elegance with the minimum of effort.
With Singapore players falling to the ground increasingly in the second half, earning the opprobrium of the home support, Bennett was stealing seconds and yards with no one noticing.
A poor start for Malaysia for sure. But to describe them as being in a 'pathetic state' as this scribe does seems as bit far fetched. In the context of the AFF Cup it was not a good start, ok almost humiliating for the champions on home turf, but let's not do Singapore a disservice here. They had done their homework and they worked bloody hard on the field. They deserved what they got.
On the night Rajagopal couldn't adapt to what was lined up in front of him. He's got a couple of days to fix that on the training field ahead of their game with Laos mid week before they play Indonesia at the weekend. But don't forget two years ago they lost their opening game in Jakarta 5-1 against Indonesia and went on to win the trophy.
Singapore will savour a famous victory and their small band of travelling fans will have enjoyed their overnight trip home. They play Indonesia on Wednesday and a result against them will secure their place in the semi finals.