Story by Wong Hong Yong/Red Sports with additional reporting by REDintern Noor Farhan. Pictures by Vanessa Lim/Red Sports and REDintern Derek Quah.
Tatsuro Tajima (Japan, #10) ready to take a shot at the net. (Photo 1 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Woodlands Sports Hall, Saturday, February 6, 2010 - Singapore were unlucky to finish only with a 2-2 draw in the Asia Pacific Floorball Championship after a last-gasp equaliser by Japan but they still finished top of the table despite the draw and qualified for the 2010 Men’s World Championship.
Japan, who finished level on points with Singapore but were second because of an inferior goal difference, also qualified for the world championship, together with Australia. Five teams competed in this tournament and there were world championship places for the top three teams.
The 8th Mens World Championship will be played in Finland on December 2010.
The 2-2 score line was a testament to the rather cautious encounter between both teams.
The Japanese, upon winning the faceoff, initiated the first attack as some good interlink play between their defence almost allowed Kurata Shohei (JPN #5) to break down the boards. Some good covering by Kelvin Koh (SG #11) ended that attack.
Singapore than started to assert themselves over the Japanese, as they kept the pressure on the Japanese defence. The Japanese however, were coping well and looked keen to hit only the break.
The Singapore team turned to a more patient approach as they kept possession and played at their own pace, looking for space to exploit.
The Japanese goalie was soon called into action, catching a save with ease from Timothy Quek (SG #99) who tried his luck from just after the centre line.
He was again made to work, saving a wrist shot by Oswind Rosayro (SG #12) that went straight to him.
Things got tougher for the Japanese at 3.25 when they conceded a power play and Kurata Shohei (JPN #5) was given a 2-minute penalty for an offense.
Instead of going on an immediate attack, the Singapore team decided to play slow. At 4.37, Tan Yiru (SG #23) decided to cut in for a shot but it only resulted in the Japanese defence hoofing the ball long up court as they sought to weather the storm.
Just as Kurata Shohei (JPN #5) finished his penalty and returned at 5.29, Timothy Quek (SG #99) fired in a wrist shot from just after half court into the bottom right corner of the goal, stunning the Japanese.
The Japanese, awakened by the goal, started to organise some fine attacking forays. Takahashi Yuta (JPN #14) played a long pass to Ishizaki Naoya (JPN #9), who chested it down for Tsudome Yuki (JPN #7) who put his shot wide of goal.
Singapore were not slacking either, with Md Syazni (SG #25) being a constant thorn to the Japanese defence with his surging runs from the centre.
An uncharacteristic Singapore error went unpunished when Abdul Hafiz (SG #10) played a blind back pass that just evaded Matsuba Naoki (JPN #16). The Japanese team nearly equalised when good play by Akagami Takuma (JPN #17) and Yasuno Taisuke (JPN #20) allowed the former to pull off a shot that was saved by the outstretched leg of goalie Abdul Khalique (SG #31) .
Khalique (SG #31) again pulled off a good save when he reacted quickly to tip a Matsuba Naoki (JPN #16) wrist shot over goal.
At 9.35, Kagawa Tamihiko (JPN #18) tripped Md Hafeez (SG #7) and conceded a power play. The numbers soon evened up, as Jovyn Low (SG #22) was also given a penalty as he jostled with the Japanese goalie for a rebound.
The Singapore team had a scary moment as Nakagawa Tomoaki (JPN #19) sneaked a pass into the centre for the unmarked Ishizaki Naoya (JPN #9) but Naoya’s shot came off a Singapore defender.
Singapore went down to three men when Enrico Marican (SG #24) was given a 2-minute penalty, before Jovyn Low (SG #22) managed to complete his penalty.
This was to be decisive, as Nakagawa Tomoaki (JPN #19) scored with a drag shot at 12.54, with the Singapore defence backing off.
Singapore had a Jekyll and Hyde moment in the second period. A great defensive tackle by Rosayro Oswind Suriya (SG #12) on Nishii Ryota (JPN #8) to stop the Japanese attack was followed by a misplaced Kelvin Koh (SG #11) pass in front of goal that nearly resulted in disaster had he not reacted fast enough to regain possession.
The Singapore crowd enjoyed a moment of skill when Shahmeer (SG #3) tricked Akagami Takuma (JPN #17) into running in the wrong direction.
Singapore finally got their second goal to go 2-1 up when Joshua Leroy Brown (SG #21) fashioned a superb solo goal, turning two Japanese defenders and dragging his shot into the top left corner, with the goalie diving in vain.
Singapore, looking for an early third goal in the third period, took off the goalie and played with 6 players at 1.55 min.
This tactic was not really effective as the Japanese pinned them down within their own half and Singapore were forced to bring back their goalie.
With the clock ticking down, the Japanese started throwing bodies into attack as they pushed for an equaliser and they finally got one at 18.46.
Tajima Tatsuro (JPN #10) scored a beautiful goal against the run of play, as he took a loose shot which bobbled in front of goal and planted it beyond the reach of the Singapore goalie. This jolted the Singapore players into an attacking frenzy but it was too late and Japan pulled off an escape.
“They played well. We expected to win, but to leak a goal at the very last moment was very unlucky,” said Singapore coach Saravanan Rajamanikam.
“I am happy to see the team is working and trying very hard for a win.”
Team Line up
3 Abdul Rehman Shahmeer Forward
4 Alagappan Nahendran Forward
7 Mohd Kassim Hafeez Forward
9 Mohd Kassim Ahmad Afzal Forward
10 Zubir Abdul Hafiz Defender
11 Koh Boon Kwang Kelvin Defender
12 Rosayro Oswind Suriya Forward
13 Sing Lionel Forward
15 Sim How Chong Defender
16 Sivalingam Johnson Defender
17 Huang Sean Defender
21 Brown Leroy Forward
22 Low Jovyn Hock Teck Forward
23 Tan Yiru Forward
24 Marican Enrico Elifh Forward
25 Ramlee Muhammad Syazni Forward
27 Cortes Joseph Defender
31 Arshad Sanusi Khalique Goalkeeper
32 Samat Mohamad Firdaus Goalkeeper
99 Quek Timothy Forward
1 Nakagawa Takanori Goalkeeper
2 Nakata Norihito Goalkeeper
4 Tamura Hiroyuki Defender
5 Kurata Shohei Forward
6 Koshino Tadasuke Defender
7 Tsudome Yuki Forward
8 Nishii Ryota Forward
9 Ishizaki Naoya Forward
10 Tajima Tatsuro Forward
11 Taya Kiyoto Forward
12 Abe Munenori Defender
13 Nakai Yutaka Defender
14 Takahashi Yuta Forward
15 Watabe Daisuke Forward
16 Matsuba Naoki Forward
17 Akagami Takuma Forward
18 Kagawa Tamihiko Defender
19 Nakagawa Tomoaki Forward
20 Yasuno Taisuke Forward
Japan players passing the ball as Jovyn Low (Singapore, #22) tries to intercept the pass. (Photo 2 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Tan Yiru tries to get past the Japanese defenders. (Photo 3 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Mohd Hafeez (Singapore #7) tries to steal the ball from Yukata Nakai (Japan #13). (Photo 4 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Jovyn Low (Singapore #22) intercepts the ball from Daisuke Watabe (Japan #15). (Photo 5 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
A Japanese player blazes past Oswind Suriya (Singapore #12) and Ahmed Afzal (Singapore #9). (Photo 6 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Tomoaki Nakagawa (Japan #19) going down after a hard knock to the shin. (Photo 7 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Jovyn Low (Singapore #22) trying to get past two Japanese defenders. (Photo 8 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Tomoaki Nakagawa (Japan #19) and Abdul Hafiz (Singapore #10) tussle for the ball. (Photo 9 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
The Singapore team celebrate their second goal … (Photo 10 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
… but Japan would score their equalizer in the last minute. (Photo 11 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Japanese goalkeeper Takanori Nakagawa makes a save. (Photo 12 © Derek Quah/Red Sports)
Singapore forward Oswind Suriya facing pressure from Japanese defender Yutaka Nakai. (Photo 13 © Derek Quah/Red Sports)
The Japanese huddle up during a timeout. (Photo 14 © Derek Quah/Red Sports)
Singapore forward Shahmeer Abdul Rehman is chased by two Japanese players for possession of the ball. (Photo 15 © Derek Quah/Red Sports)