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Philippines stumble in curtain raiser against hosts Singapore

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The Philippines Under-23 men’s football contingent fought valiantly to kick off their Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign, but they were denied of the points in the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Singapore, Monday evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the city-state.

After a grueling 90 minutes of play, the goal scored by defender, Sheikh Abdul Hadi’s, just before halftime proved to be the difference between the two Group A teams.

The Singaporeans were dominant in the opening 45 minutes, and they created three good chances early on to prove that point. Nine minutes into the match, Stanely Ng launched a good shot, but lacked power and direction to get past Jun Badelic, who gathered it quite routinely. Two minutes later, the hosts had another good try on goal, courtesy of Sahil Suhaimi. The forward was set up by Faris Ramli before his attempt was stopped well by the Filipino goalkeeper. Shortly after, Badelic was tested yet again by Sahil, whose shot from outside the box was collected.

The Filipinos may have been pushed back in their majority of the affair, but they also had a couple of good opportunities to open the scoring; Paolo Salenga shot high and wide from around 25 yards at the 16th minute. Twelve minutes after, Paolo Bugas relayed the ball into the path of Jinggoy Valmayor, only for the Filipino striker fluffing the shot harmlessly wide.

Those were the only moments the Filipinos threatened to snatch momentum away with a goal. After surviving those half-chances, Singapore resumed in their quest for a breakthrough goal, and they nearly got it a minute after the 30-minute mark. Sariful Sulaiman’s free kick delivery appeared to have been caught by Badelic before Shakir Hamzah pounced on the loose ball to tap in into the goal. Luckily for the Philippines, the referee ruled a foul on Shakir, disallowing the goal in the process.

Seeing the ball into the net ignited the Singaporeans, who nearly went ahead seven minutes before halftime. Sahil’s shot looked to be destined to hit the back of the net, but Badelic reacted well enough, pushing the ball into the post before it was cleared. With halftime just around corner, the resilient Filipinos received a huge blow when the home side found a way to get the ball into the net. Safirul’s free kick was headed in by Hadi to tow Singapore ahead at the break.

In the second half, the Young Lions almost doubled their lead with less than a minute after the restart has elapsed. Irfan Fandi threaded a cross to Sahil, who again was unsuccessful in his attempt, which ended up wide. The early Singapore chance sparked the Philippines to move forward urgently with their aim of equalizing before their opponents can pad the gap. At the 57th minute, UP fullback, Patxi Santos, came closest after he gained space to shoot in the box, but Rudy Kairullah palmed the ball to safety. Arnel Amita unfurled a shot three minutes later, but it was nowhere near the goal.

Unfortunately, that was it for the Filipinos, who spent most of the closing period in keeping the hosts within touching distance. They weathered a flurry of Singaporean chances, the closest of which came from the unmarked Sahil, who was only able to slide his shot narrowly wide nine minutes from time. There was also an indirect free kick inside the box awarded to Singapore, but they did not convert off of that as well.

They may have not claimed a second goal, but in using offense as their best defensive weapon, Singapore did just enough to take all three points at the expense of the Philippines. Dejected, exhausted, but totally determined, the Filipinos will take on in Cambodia in two nights time at the same venue. Kickoff will also be at half past eight in the evening.

*Screenshot from Singapore Sport’s youtube page.

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