Written By: Kenneth Ho
Singapore Under-23s earned a comfortable 1-0 victory over Philippines Under-23s in the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Group A’s opener.
Sheikh Abdul Hadi’s first-half header was enough for the Young Lions to earn maximum points, although the hosts could have scored more had they been more clinical.
The accounts could have been opened after just nine minutes, but Stanely Ng wasted his chance after being released by Shamil Sharif, but sent a tame shot at Florencio Badelic Jr.
Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi combined next to see the latter dart into the box, but the striker could only nod a weak effort at Badelic.
The visitors barely got a whisper at goal, but they did enjoy their first clear-cut opportunity in the 27th minute, as Gerardo Valmayor headed Bugas Paolo’s cross wide.
Singapore thought they had scored in the 31st minute, but Shakir Hamzah’s effort was chalked off after the referee spotted an infringement in the box.
Sahil then suffered the agony of seeing Badelic tip away his fierce drive onto the bar in the 37th minute, as the Lions continued their assault at goal.
Their efforts finally paid off just before the break, with Sheikh popping up to head in Safirul Sulaiman’s free-kick.
Philippines did try to come back into the game after the break, but Young Lions’ goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari stood firm to keep them at bay.
Knowing they had a reliable goalkeeper at the back helped the home side, as they poured forward in search of the second goal.
They should have doubled the lead just after the hour mark, when Irfan Fandi picked out Sahil in the box, but the latter contrived to poke his shot just wide of the post.
Irfan was then denied by Badelic, as the goalkeeper pushed away his shot from close range to keep the deficit at one goal.
Goal-scorer Sheikh also failed to double his tally for the night in the 73rd minute, as he poked a point-blank effort straight at Badelic.
Singapore coach Aide Iskandar was pleased with the three points. He said: “I think the most important thing is the three points we got tonight. I’m pleased with the three points.
“It is very important and now we can calm our nerves, before going into the second game with confidence.”
Philippines coach Marlon Maro thought his side were unlucky to concede just before half-time, which led to their defeat.
“It was very unfortunate for Philippines team, because we conceded seconds before the first half whistle,” Maro said.
The Young Lions will now face Myanmar in their next match on Thursday.
Singapore: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Shakir Hamzah (C), Adam Swandi, M.Anumanthan, Sahil Suhaimi (Suria Prakash 84’), Shamil Sharif (Irfan Fandi 35’), Faris Ramli, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Stanely Ng (Amy Recha 66’), Sairul Sulaiman,