Khairul stars as Singapore beat India

Singapore made short work of India in their FIFA international friendly with a 2-0 win to begin their preparations for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Football News: Singapore vs India
Abhishek Mehrotra

By Abhishek Mehrotra

Substitute Khairul Amri scored the opener in the 42nd minute and set up the second for Fazrul Nawaz four minutes after the break in the facile win at the Choa Chua Kang Stadium.

Both coaches had stressed the importance of the match prior to kick-off with Radojko Avramovic looking for Singapore's best combination in anticipation of Southeast Asia's premier football competition and India's Wim Koevermans aiming to build on the country's recent Nehru Cup triumph.

The Dutchman's wards seemed to settle faster on the knobbly Choa Chu Kang pitch - captain Sunil Chhetri twice going close within the opening five minutes. 

First the striker flicked narrowly wide of the near post from a Sanju Pradhan free-kick before failing to make contact with Raju Gaikwad's humungous throw-in which caused havoc in the Singapore defence. 

It didn't take Singapore long to riposte, with Fazrul Nawaz blazing over from an acute angle in the seventh minute after Lenny Rodrigues had given the ball away while Shandan Sulaiman's left-footed strike from the edge of the area drifted harmlessly wide less than 60 seconds later.

Nonetheless, the visitors should really have taken the lead on the quarter hour mark when the hard-working Clifford Miranda seized on a mistake by Singapore captain Baihakki Khaizan to race into the box and put in a pacey ball across the face of goal. 

Inexplicably, Chhetri failed to even make an effort to get to it as the chance went begging.

Having started on a decent note, India then seemed to regress as the game went on, failing to retain possession and letting the Singapore midfield dictate proceedings. 

Hariss Harun, playing in a more advanced role than usual for the Lions, was a dangerous presence, latching on to veteran forward Aleksandar Duric's knockdown in the 26th minute only to see his shot from 18 yards out sail over. 

The LIONSXII player was again first to Duric's header five minutes later, but his attempted cross into the box was too close to Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul, who smothered the ball with Duric lurking just behind.

Gaikwad then did well in the 36th minute to put Shi Jiayi off after the midfielder had latched on to a through ball from Shahdan on the right. Forced to snatch at his shot due to pressure from the East Bengal player, the Home United captain shot over from an acute angle.   

There had been a coming together of legs between the two players as Jiayi went for goal, and both players required treatment with the Singaporean coming off worse. That would have a significant impact on the match only a few minutes later. 

Having failed to muster anything of note for nearly half an hour, India finally gave their supporters, a significant number of whom had turned up, something to cheer about five minutes before the break. 

Miranda and Syed Nabi, one of the few bright spots for the visitors on the night, combined superbly down the left before  Miranda stole into the box but with two blue shirts to aim at, failed to get his cross past the solid Khaizan who thumped the ball into the crowd. 

The break in play allowed Avramovic to take off Jiayi, by now hobbling badly thanks to the earlier collision with Gaikwad, and introduce Khairul Amri.

Within two minutes of coming on, and with his first touch, the striker had scored his tenth goal for Singapore, although he had Paul to thank for it. 

The Indian keeper, having done well to control a loopy backpass from midfield, miserably scuffed his kick - and it came straight out to Shahdan 30 yards from goal.  The midfielder showed good presence of mind to head the ball in between the surprised Indian defence and send Khairul through on goal from the right. 

The former Tampines man coolly slotted the ball past the hapless Paul and into the bottom corner to give his side the lead going into the break. 

If Koevermans was expecting  a response from his wards after the break, he was to be sorely disappointed as Singapore doubled their lead within four minutes of the restart instead.

Mustafic Fahrudin muscled his way down the right flank before finding Khairul. The scorer turned provider now, his fizzy cross evading Duric but arriving perfectly in the path of the onrushing Fazrul who did well to give Sanju Pradhan the slip before guiding a left-footed shot past Paul.

Going by their performance thus far in the match, no one was expecting India to mount a comeback from two down, but most disappointingly for their fans, the visitors even failed to carve out any decent chances.

Forward Robin Singh, brought on to replace the disappointing Chhetri, did provide some semblance of a threat though, with his physicality causing both Khaizan and Safuwan Bahrundin some problems. 

The striker drew a few roars of appreciation in the 70th minute when he chested a cross from Francisco Fernandes, who improved as the game progressed, before pulling off a swivel-shot that was well directed but lacked venom to test Izwan Mahbud.

Before and after that though, it was all Singapore. Fazrul had a goal disallowed in the 55th minute for offside after some pleasing build-up by the home side before Duric failed to control a beautiful lobbed pass from Shahdan that split the Indian defence on the hour mark.

Twenty minutes later, the 42-year-old had a chance to repay the favour but with Shahdan in acres of space, waited too long to release the ball, allowing the Indians to play the midfielder offside.

India wasted their last chance to salvage something four minutes from time, when Denzil Franco narrowly missed getting onto the end of Jewel Raja's corner. 

Indeed, Singapore could have buttressed their victory with another goal but substitute Fazli Ayob somehow contrived to miss an open goal from four yards out after Paul could only parry Safuwan's ferocious 30-yard strike right at the substitute's feet.

In the end though, it was a pleasing result for the Avramovic ahead of what promises to be a testing Suzuki Cup campaign

 And if he had any doubts earlier, Avramovic's counterpart would surely have realised after this game the enormity of the challenge facing him as he seeks to turn India from one of the lowest ranked teams in the world into an Asian football power.

Starting XIs

Singapore: Izwan Mahbud, Juma'at Jantan (Irwan Shah 46'), Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Bahrudin, Shaiful Esah, Hariss Harun, Mustafic Fahrudin (Isa Halim 75'), Shahdan Sulaiman (Hafiz Abu Sujad 89'), Shi Jiayi (Khairul Amri 40'), Fazrul Nawaz (Fazli Ayob 66'), Aleksandar Duric (Firdaus Kasman 90')

Goals: Khairul Amri (42'), Fazrul Nawaz (49')

India: Subrata Paul, Raju Gaikwad (Gurwinder Singh 64'), Nirmal Chettri, Gourmangi Singh, Syed Nabi (Denzil Franco 81'), Lenny Rodrigues, Sanju Pradhan (Jewel Raja 60'), Clifford Miranda (Anthony Pereira 77'), Mehtab Hossain (Joaquim Abranches 80'), Fracsico Fernandes, Sunil Chhetri (Robin Singh 60')

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