SG Ratings: Shahril still the ace, Baihakki and Safuwan reminisce 2012

Singapore celebrate Ikhsan Fandi goal
Kenneth Tan Kenneth Tan

Kenneth Tan rates the players in Singapore’s 1-1 draw against Mauritius in the international friendly played at the Bishan Stadium on Friday night.

Fandi Ahmad’s tenure as head coach of the Lions got off to a good start as his boys showed plenty of determination to come back from an early setback.

There were plenty of positives to take away from the game as Safuwan Baharudin and Baihakki Khaizan renewed their 2012 defensive partnership while Shahril Ishak came off the bench to remind everyone that he is still one of Singapore football’s best exponents in the art of attacking.

Player Ratings (1-10)

Izwan Mahbud (6.5) – Selected ahead of Hassan, the Nongbua Pitchaya custodian’s night got off to an ominous start as he parried Villeneuve Jeremy’s shot straight at Jonathan Justin – allowing the latter to convert the rebound. The 28-year-old did make up for that with a superb fingertip save to deny Gary Noel’s fierce close-range drive early in the second half, before eventually coming off for Hassan.

Zulqarnaen Suzliman (6.5) – One of the two debutants alongside older brother Zulfadhmi, the 20-year-old was understandably nervy at right back as he failed to assert himself in the first 45 minutes.  Credit to the Young Lions man, he improved in the second half – putting in a few strong challenges and got forward well, before coming off with cramp midway through.

Irfan Fandi (7) – The strapping 21-year-old was his usual bustling self at the back, winning a few aerial duels and clearing whatever that came his way. However one area which he needs to improve on is the accuracy of his forward passes, with a number of them going astray.

Safuwan Baharudin (8) – Restored to the heart of defence where he made his name as a youngster, Safuwan put up a rock-solid display as he marked out the threat of Mauritius’s towering 1.93m hitman Justin for large periods of the game. Surely Fandi will be reluctant to switch him back to a midfield role – which he has played for the past few years – after this game.

Shakir Hamzah (7) – Chosen on the left side of defence, the 26-year-old patrolled his flank with excellence and did not allow the opposition wingers much joy down his side. Based on this performance, it is hard to see anyone dislodging him as Singapore’s first-choice left-back for the Suzuki Cup.

Izzdin Shafiq (4.5) – It was a night to forget for the midfield playmaker as he failed to replicate his blockbuster performances at club level. The Home United captain misplaced one pass too many and was guilty of playing Justin onside for Mauritius’s early strike. Could have redeemed himself with a stinging long-range drive late in the first half, but opposition keeper Jean-Louis Kevin held firm amidst a sea of bodies.

Hariss Harun (6.5) – Was given a tough night in the middle of the park with Mauritius midfielders clamping down on him whenever he was in possession – resulting in him losing the ball twice in key areas. Nonetheless the Lions skipper kept running and driving on the team. Eventually it was his long ball that led to Ikhsan netting the equaliser.

Nazrul Nazari (4) – Another player who would want to forget this game in a hurry is Nazrul, who failed to make a significant impact as a right winger. Spurned an excellent opportunity to put the Lions ahead early on and nothing he tried came off. Was eventually replaced by Shahril at half time and have lots of work to do to remain in the starting eleven.

Yasir Hanapi (6) – It was a game of two halves for Yasir, who struggled in the no. 10 role in the first half but fared much better once he was shifted out wide in the second half. Won the ball back a couple of times with his tenacity and worked his socks off for the team, although he was not as effective as he could be.

Singapore striker Ikhsan Fandi

Zulfadhmi Suzliman (6.5) – Handed a surprise debut at left wing, the 22-year-old put up a gusty display – making several runs to put the Mauritius defenders on the back foot and tracked back well to help Shakir out a few times. Could have scored on a couple of occasions if he had more composure in the attacking third and that will surely come with more minutes on the international level.

Ikhsan Fandi (7) – While he has been scoring goals for fun in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), Ikhsan found the task a little harder at the international level – with his first touch letting him down on a few occasions. Nonetheless the 19-year-old never stopped trying and he would eventually come good just before being substituted.  Chesting down Hariss’ long ball into Shahril’s path, he stayed alive in the box to slot home the latter’s square pass for his maiden Lions goal.

Substitutes

Shahril Ishak (9)

There may still be question marks on whether he can last a full game at the international level, but there should be no doubts on what he can still offer to the Singapore national team. It was his entry at half time for Nazrul that completely changed the game for the Lions. Slotting in just behind Ikhsan, the 34-year-old immediately showed the way with some clever lay-offs and runs off the ball. The equaliser was all his work – leaving his marker on his backside with a superb shimmy before laying on a perfectly-weight pass for Ikhsan to convert.

Baihakki Khaizan (7)

Another one from the ‘old guard’ that proved his worth. Replacing the injured Irfan on the hour mark, the Udon Thani centre-back shore things up defensively and won almost every aerial duel. The 34-year-old also showed superb positioning late into the game to deny Mauritius a clear-cut opportunity.

M. Anumanthan (6)

Came on for Izzdin on 62 minutes to give the midfield some much-needed steel in the middle of the park, but the midfield hard man did not assert himself as much as he is capable of.

Faritz Hameed (6)

Replaced the injured Zulqarnaen in the 65th minute and made a few good attacking forays from right back, but lacked accuracy in his deliveries into the box as the opportunities eventually fizzled out.

Hassan Sunny (7)

Replaced Izwan on 71 minutes for his 75th cap and was largely untroubled, as Singapore piled on the pressure in the closing stages.

Khairul Amri (N.A.)

Came on for Ikhsan for the final 15 minutes and almost made an immediate impact, with his shot from outside the box troubling Kevin into a save. Played his part at the other end late on by heading clear a Mauritius corner.

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