By Amir Yusof/Red Sports. Photos by Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports
Hazim Hassan (Singapore #13) connects with the ball to score the equaliser for Singapore. (Photo 1 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
Jalan Besar Stadium, Wednesday, June 22, 2011— An Instant reply.
That was what the Singapore U16 side produced after going behind to a resurgent Everton in the crucial penultimate game of Group B in the 23rd Lion City Cup.
A Hazim Hassan (#13) goal cancelled out a goal by Calum Dyson (Everton #9) and the 1-1 draw was enough to ensure that the Singapore U16s qualified for the semi-finals against CR Flamengo U15.
The Cubs appeared determined to achieve victory as they lined up in an offensive formation with skilled playmakers Hanafi Akbar (#10) and Jonathan Tan (#11) positioned high up in the attacking third.
As a result, the Lions started the half brightly with winger Jonathan Tan hitting the bar after excellent footwork that confounded the Everton defenders. The rebound then fell kindly for striker Hazim Hassan (#13) who was left unmarked in the box. Unfortunately, he failed to connect well with the ball and his header was easily gathered by the Scouser’s goalkeeper, Rusell Griffiths (#1).
The Scousers then began to ask questions of the Singapore defence. Their right winger, Daniel O’Brien (#4), was menacing in particular, causing all sorts of problem for skipper Dhukhilan and co. O’Brien, the Man-of-the-Match, created the opening goal when surged down the right flank, shrugged off the challenge of left back Brandon Koh (#7) and drilled a cross into the penalty box. Everton’s imposing #9, Calum Dyson, connected well with the cross and headed into the far corner. It was a typical goal by an English team — direct and quick football followed by a no-nonsense finish.
After 20 minutes, the score was 1-0 to the Merseysiders and as things stood, the Cubs were heading towards a premature exit from the competition.
Despite the setback, the Cubs displayed outstanding resilience and determination to salvage their place in the semis. Right after play restart, the Cubs surged forward in search of the pivotal equalizer. Passing the ball with fluidity and urgency, they were duly rewarded.
Hazim Hassan, having missed a clear cut opportunity earlier, made amends after benefiting from poor marking by Everton defenders. It proved ultimately to be a crucial goal.
Buoyed by Hazim’s goal, the Cubs continued to attack, now looking to take a lead in the game. However, tiki taka by creative midfielders Hanafi and Muhaimin Suhaimi (#17) failed to produce the final ball needed as the teams went into the half-time break with the score level.
The second half was a quiet affair in comparison to the first 45 minutes as fatigue started to kick in for the two sides. Everton were visibly more tired as their players struggled with the heat and humidity in Singapore.
Scouser skipper Jon Joe Kenny (#12) said after the game: “We were completely shagged and in cramps towards the end while the Singapore team just continued to play as per usual. The weather is difficult to get used to.”
Yet, Everton did pose a genuine threat at set-pieces. Suspect marking by Singapore defenders and the larger built of the English boys meant that the game hung in the balance till the final whistle. Luckily for the Cubs, most of Everton’s goal attempts sailed just wide as the partisan crowd looked on in fear.
The crowd had much to cheer though at the final whistle as both the Singapore U-15 and U16 teams have now qualified for the semi-finals against the Flamengo U15 and Juventus U15 respectively.
With a genuine possibility of an all-Singapore final, some may wonder if there is any sort of rivalry between the two sides developing. However such rumours were dispelled by Hanafi after the game. Laughing off suggestions that there was indeed some animosity developing between the two local teams, Hanafi said: “Now our focus is solely on Juventus in the semis. We’re aware of the possibility of an all Singapore final but right now our focus will be on Juve.”
While the Singapore U-16 team will now begin preparations for the semi-finals, Everton will be heading back to Merseyside. However, it may not be long before the team return to Singapore shores to compete for the next Lion City Cup.
Said Everton coach, Paul Tait: “This competition has been a fantastic exposure for our boys who are mostly 14 years of age. We look forward to bringing this same group back here next year and this time compete better as we would be a year older.”
Everton U-15 Lineup
Rusell Griffiths (#1), Kyle Scarlsbrick (#2), Daniel O’Brien (#4), Arlen Birch (#5), Josephl Williams, Henry Charsley (#8), Calum Dyson (#9), Ryan Ledson (#11), Jon Joe Kenny (#12), James Graham (#15), Charley Edge (#16)
Singapore U16 Lineup
Fashah Rosedin (#1), Dhulkhilan (#16), Brandon Koh (#7), Ilyas Lee (#14), Ammirul Mazlan (#6), Bryan Neubronner (#15), Fatemy Firdouse (#19), Hanafi Akhbar (#10), Hazim Hassan (#13), Jonathan Tan (#11), Muhaimin Suhaimi (#17)
The team celebrating Hazim’s goal. (Photo 2 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
For more photos, go to the next page.