Ten-man Singapore battle to scoreless draw to open Suzuki Cup
Hafiz Sujad was shown a straight red card in just the 34th minute but Singapore dug in and managed to deny Philippines, Southeast Asia’s highest ranked team and one of the pre-tournament favourites, the win.
The Lions started the game well and had few troubles prior to Hafiz’s dismissal, but coach V. Sundramoorthy will ultimately have to be pleased with securing a point at Philippine Sports Stadium.
The first opportunity for either side arrived in just the third minute, with Khairul Amri feeding veteran defender Daniel Bennett, who sprayed his effort well wide from inside the box.
The Lions dominated possession in the early stages, giving the expectant home crowd very little to shout about, creating another opening in the 14th minute when Juma’at Jantan’s cross found Hafiz, who couldn’t quite get his header on target.
Philippines finally had their first attempt on goal two minutes later, with Stephan Schrock stinging Hassan Sunny’s gloves with a well-taken free-kick from around 30 yards.
Then, in a match of very few chances, Philippines’ task was made a little easier when the lively Hafiz was sent off for a challenge on Phil Younghusband.
Hafiz was shocked by the decision, but his raised boot connected high up around Younghusband’s armpit, right in front of the referee.
Singapore fought on and managed to reach the end of a foul-riddled opening 45 minutes on level terms.
The Azkals would surely have to show more intent after the break and so it proved, with halftime substitute Hikaru Minegishi beating the offside trap and drawing a smart save from Hassan in the 47th minute.
Hassan then came to the rescue twice just on the hour mark, tipping a Philippine shot wide before safely securing a deflected Schrock attempt as the home side searched for a breakthrough.
Minegishi then couldn’t capitalise on the best chance of the game in the 80th minute, put into space by Schrock but only managing to spray his chance when he only had Hassan to beat.
That man Minegishi then had a free header from a Philippine corner in the first minute of stoppage time, drawing another smart save from Hassan as the Lions hung on.
Photos: Asian Football Federation