Philippines and Singapore opened up their AFF Suzuki Cup finals campaign with a goalless draw in their Group A clash at the Philippine Sports Stadium on Saturday.
Philippines 0-0 Singapore
Match of few chances
Intense midfield battle
Sujad sent off in first half
Philippines had the only two chances of the entire first half, both of which were speculative long-range free kicks from Stephan Schrock and both were saved. The biggest piece of action in the opening 45 minutes was when Hafiz Sujad was given his marching orders in the 34th minute.
The home side were much improved after the break but lacked ideas up front and were constantly thwarted by a decent-looking Singapore defence as the match petered out to a dull 0-0 draw.
The tone of the match was set early on as the midfields of both teams put in some crunching challenges in order to assert dominance. Neither side was able to hang on to possession for any decent period of time and chances were few and far between.
The first chance of the game fell to Schrock in the 17th minute when the Philippines were awarded a free kick about 35 meters away from goal. The midfielder lined the ball up and had a crack from long range and it nearly dipped in under the crossbar, but Hassan Sunny was able to tip over the bar.
Singapore showed a rare glimpse of attacking intent around the 20 minute mark when Sujad burst down the left wing, but his cross was poor and intercepted by Armani Aguindalo.
Neither side let up on the physicality throughout the first half, creating a bruising and frustrating encounter that was not the spectacle fans of both sides would have been hoping for.
The next decent chance of the match again fell to Schrock with another long-range free kick, but this time it lacked power and was easily collected by Safuwan.
With the strength that was being committed to the tackle by both teams there was an air of inevitability about the red card shown to Sujad in the 34th minute.
The defender miss controlled the ball and lifted his leg high to try retrieve it, but only succeeded in catching a Philippines player in the face. There was no malice to the challenge, but there is no reason a footballer’s foot should ever be that high and he gave the referee little choice but to send him for an early shower.
Despite being a man down, Singapore nearly got the breakthrough shortly before half time when Hariss Harun lifted a tantalising ball into the Philippines box and, after a poor attempt at a headed clearance, the loose ball looked like it might fall to Khairul Amri, but Roland Muller was able to rush off his line and claim it to avert the danger.
While they struggled to make their man advantage tell in the latter part of the first half, the Philippines began the second period on the front foot. Mike Ott burst into the box and looked to be through, before he lost control of the ball, allowing Sunny to nip in and steal the ball.
Ott was in the thick of the action again around the 55 minute mark when he took a dip from long range. It looked easy for the goalkeeper to save, but he spilled his initial attempt and was able to recover the ball before the onrushing Kenshiro Daniels was able to make him pay for his mistake.
Ten minutes later, the home side looked threatening once again, as Jeffery Christiaens had a chance from the edge of the area, but scuffed it wide. However, the chance wasn’t over with Iain Ramsey able to stop the ball form going out and playing it back in for Schrock, who took it past two defenders before having a shot, but it was still blocked and then comfortably saved.
Despite the early flurry of action at the start of the second half, the action once again died down after the 75 minute mark as Singapore dropped back to try and hold on for a draw, while the Philippines continued to struggle for ideas up front.
The rough-housing did continue though and Ott was lucky not to be sent off the pitch in late on after he rugby tackled a Singaporean defender away from the ball. Even in rugby, it would’ve received a harsher sentence as his arm was above the defenders shoulder.
There was a late chance for Hiraku Minegishi, who found himself in acres of space deep into second half injury time and he sent his header towards the goal, but Sunny pulled off an acrobatic, diving save to tip it around the post.
While the statistics will show that the Philippines were the better side on the day, in truth it was a poor match that neither side deserved to win, despite Singapore playing with a man disadvantage for over half the match.