By Les Tan. Photos by Lai Jun Wei.
The Singapore starting XI. Back (left to right): Agu Casmir, Mustafic Fahrudin, Precious Emuejeraye, Lionel Lewis, Daniel Bennett, Baihakki Khaizan. Front (left to right): Shahril Ishak, Shi Jiayi, Noh Alam Shah, Ridhuan Muhd, Noh Rahman. (Photo 1 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
National Stadium, Sunday, December 21, 2008 – Singapore’s 0-1 loss to Vietnam last night in the second leg semi-final of the ASEAN Football Championship (AFF Suzuki Cup) was hard to take because the home team dominated possession and created chances.
Vietnam had one chance, and they took it. They now go on to meet Thailand in the two-legged final.
The goal by Vietnam was beautiful in execution and take nothing away from them for their one-touch passing play. From Singapore’s perspective, that one play alone exposed defensive frailties in the team the same way Myanmar did in scoring against Singapore in their 1-3 loss in the group stage.
First, Baihakki Khaizan was exposed for his lack of pace. Baihakki followed striker Nguyen Quang Hai all the way to the midway line and when Quang Hai turned him and left him for dead, Baihakki never stayed with him as Quang Hai sprinted for the penalty box.
Quang Hai made a short pass out to a teammate who quickly found Le Cong Vinh on the left, one step ahead of Ismail Yunos. Ismail didn’t dare take him out immediately and was soon left trailing, an attempt to shoulder Cong Vinh off the ball proving inadequte despite being taller than Cong Vinh.
Cutting to the byeline, Cong Vinh avoided the advance of Lionel Lewis and had the time and brains to pick out Quang Hai in the box and the latter tapped into an unguarded goal.
Precious Emuejeraye will shoulder some blame too for not picking up Quang Hai on the run in and it was left to left fullback Daniel Bennett to try and do a centre back’s job. However, Daniel could do nothing to stop the cross and, caught in an awkward position, landed on his butt while vainly trying to stop Quang Hai from tapping it in.