By REDintern Ismail Farhan Anuar
Jalan Besar Stadium, Sunday, December 16, 2012 – The Singapore Youth Selection lost their second match 2-1 to Manchester United to finish last in the four-team NexLions Cup.
Supersub Mats Daehli was the star of the match, when he forced an own goal and scored the winner to seal third spot for Manchester United in the tournament.
Both sides did not start with their strongest 11, perhaps wanting to give the entire squad a chance to play in the tournament. Iqbal Hussain was the biggest player not to start for Singapore, while Daehli also was given a substitute role for this match.
Manchester United settled into the game quickly, striking the woodwork and forcing Rudy Khairullah into a fine save within the first four minutes of the start.
It was a piece of brilliant play by Kenji Gorre as he dribbled his way on the left wing, before finding the run of James Weir, who somehow could only strike the left hand post with only the keeper to beat.
Next, it was a long ball which Ali Hudzaifi failed to control, to allow Sam Byrne to shrug him off before firing a right footed shot which Rudy Khairullah did well to parry.
After surviving the early onslaught, Singapore managed to get settled into the game.
Safirul Sulaiman was the first one to threaten Pierlugi Gollini’s goal when he made a smart turn shielding the ball as he received a pass to fire a shot off target on 19 minutes.
The match then got scrappy, with the Singapore boys eager to give full blooded challenges to their counterparts. Both teams were, however, struggled to break down their opponents’ defence.
Perhaps sensing that he needed more spark upfront, Singapore coach Aide Iskandar made the first change of the game when he brought on Iqbal Hussain in the 30th minute, much to the delight of the supporters.
Singapore definitely looked better with Iqbal immediately causing some problems for the Manchester United left back Louis Rowley with his ability to hold up play.
On 35 minutes, LionsXII midfielder Raihan Rahman fired a blistering strike from 25 yards out after Iqbal found him in space but Gollini was equal to it.
Manchester United then won a free kick in the 39th minute. Barmby curled a shot on target which Rudy spilled, but he quickly recovered to block the follow up shot.
Iqbal again was the spark for Singapore as he started a counter attack in the 42nd minute when he dribbled from the center of the pitch all the way to the halfway line unchallenged. With only two Manchester United defenders running back to defend, he neatly found Sahil Suhaimi whose shot was blocked by Declan Dalley.
Heading toward the break, Sahil showed his vision when he made a slide rule pass in between the Manchester United centre backs to Shahfiq Ghani, but the Young Lions forward could only fire it straight at Gollini from close range.
Singapore definitely needed to put on their scoring boots if they did not want to disappoint the very audible Lions All The Way (LATW) Crew who had been cheering throughout the match.
Early in the second half, they got a helping hand from the referee, when Sahil was rightly judged to have been brought down by Declan Dalley in the 51st minute. Dalley had been dallying on the ball, and when Sahil ghosted past him to put himself one-on-one with the keeper, Dalley cynically clipped the forward.
Sahil was unperturbed by the pressure, as he dusted himself off to take the penalty. Without hesitation he coolly slotted it into the bottom corner of the goal. Against the run of play, Singapore were leading Manchester United 1-0.
Despite the setback, Manchester United continued to threaten. In the 54th minute, Weir danced his way in the box before squaring the ball to Barmby but the 18-year-old midfielder could only sky his shot.
Mats Daehli’s influence had steadily grown since coming on early in the second half. The fleet-footed Norwegian is a class act with the ball and his direct running was causing a lot of problems for Faris Azienuddin.
On 66 minutes, one of his forays in the box finally paid off. His low cross could only be parried by Rudy and the ball ended up being deflected in by Shakir Hamzah. Shakir could barely lift himself off the ground. It was now 1-1 with half an hour to play, and the momentum definitely now with the away side.
Things got worse for Singapore in the 69th minute when Weir skipped past two defenders before finding Daehli again who calmly dispatched it into the top corner.
The match started getting scrappy again, both sides clearly showing their dislike for each other as the number of yellow cards piled up on both sides. Frustration was clear from these young boys, and they were starting to get in each others’ faces and shoving each other. It was rather unfortunate as the match was pretty much concluded way before the full 90 minutes were up.
But all was well in the end, the players still shook hands and a particularly nice gesture was made by the Manchester United youth players when they went over to applaud all spectators in the stadium despite being on the receiving end of a barrage of boos and jeers from them.
Manchester United deservingly won the match 2-1 to claim third place in the NexLions Cup.
At the post-match conference, Singapore coach Aide rued having insufficient time to prepare his team properly for the tournament.
“Most of the boys did their best, [but] I have to clearly say we only had three and a half weeks to prepare whereas United and the other teams have been together for the rest of their lives since young,” he said.
“I think physically they are very prepared for these tournaments, and they are also at a stage where they are in the middle of their league.
“With our two performances we [have] showed that we were able to compete against them, and we are able to compete against the top European teams and we should be looking to play more tournaments like this,” added Aide.
In the final played later in the evening at 7.15pm, Sporting Lisbon beat Liverpool 2-0 with goals from Luka Stojanovic and Luis Cortez.
Rudy Khairullah (#1), Al-Qaasimy Rahman (#2), Emmeric Ong (#3), Safirul Sulaiman (#7), Shahfiq Ghani (#9), Sahil Suhaimi (#10), Shamil Sharif (#12), Syafiq Zainal (#15), Raihan Rahman (#16), Ali Hudzaifi (#20), Shakir Hamzah (#24)
Aqhari Abdullah (#13), Abdul Qadir (#18), Amy Recha Pristifana (#19), Iqbal Hussain (#23), Ammirul Emmran (#25), Jeffrey Lightfoot (#26), Faris Azienuddin (#27)
Manchester United Selection:
Donald Love (#2), Louis Rowley (#3), Liam Grimshaw (#4), Benjamin Pearson (#6), James Weir (#7), Sam Byrne (#10), Joseph Rothwell (#12), Pierluigi Gollini (#13), Jack Barmby (#14), Declan Dalley (#15), Kenji Gorre (#17)
Jonathan Sutherland (#1), Nicholas Ioannou (#5), Jack Rudge (#8), James Wilson (#9), Mats Daehli (#11), Patrick McNair (#16), Callum Evans (#18)