Singapore Selection 0 lost to Australia 1 (Under-19)

By Paul Green

International Friendly

Monday 15th October 2018 at 7:30pm – At Bishan Stadium, Singapore

Singapore Selection 0
lost to
Australia Under-19   1 (Apostolos Stamatelopoulos 40′)


Singapore’s Under-21 side provided the opposition for Australia’s Under-19s in an international friendly match on Monday night played in front of a sparse crowd at Singapore’s smart Bishan Stadium.

But as three of the key players in the Singapore Under-21s, namely Ikhsan Fandi, Irfan Fandi and Jacob Mahler, were away in Cambodia with the Singapore senior side, the locals drafted in two senior players and renamed their team Singapore Selection instead for this encounter.

Those two players, Faritz Abdul Hameed and Shakir Hamzar, both wing backs with multiple senior caps, didn’t really make much difference to the home team and it was only after they had been substituted midway through the second-half that Singapore Selection, by then a truly Under-21 side, began to pose much of a threat to Australian coach Ante Milicic’s boys.

Australia won the game 1-0, though the result was hardly important, given that all eleven outfield players in both teams were replaced well before the end of an at-times boisterous contest.

Australia fought for and won numerous corners in the first-half as Singapore soaked up continual pressure from their visitors.

It was from one of many corners on the left, whipped in by the hard-working Ramy Najjarine, that Australia managed to score the only goal of the game.

The ball was partially cleared and sent back over towards goal by Ipswich Town youngster, Gbenga Folami, with Singapore’s goalkeeper-captain, Zharfan Rohaizad, fumbling the cross.

The loose ball fell nicely in the six-yard box and despite plenty of defenders trying to get there first, Australia’s Apostolos Stamatelopoulos was able to smash it into the roof of the net.

The goal was just reward for persistent attacking moves which had seen Zharfan relying on his defenders more than once to save the day, after he had only been able to parry a series of shots from the Australian front-runners and others chiming in such as the impressive Nathaniel Atkinson, Oliver Puflett and Najjarine himself.

Singapore’s attack was also lively at times on the counter-attack, but Arshad Shamim had his powerful shot blocked in the 12th minute and in the 36th the unmarked Hami Syahin contrived to fire his effort well over the bar from point-blank range.

As the second-half began Australia continued to dominate and the goalscorer somehow could only hit the side-netting from Folani’s excellent pass in the 51st minute.

But shrewd half-time changes made by Singapore’s Acting Coach Nazri Nasir – standing in for national coach Fandi Ahmad who takes both teams when available – provided the home team with more direction and some clever approach work soon became evident, Singapore’s re-jigged eleven then giving Australia’s defence far more to think about.

Before the game it had looked like the Singapore team, basically the very raw Young Lions team from the Singapore Premier League, with a few eligible additions from other clubs, might struggle against the more rugged and mature Young Socceroos.

While that was certainly the case in the first-half, it was an entirely different one in the second.

As the game progressed Singapore mounted more and more raids with Hami again to the fore, clipping one over the bar in the 54th and Syahrul Sazali’s effort grazing the left-hand upright in the 66th.

Haiqal Pashia was a danger too and when he was brought down on the edge of the box in the 68th Singapore perhaps sensed that they might be in this game in a big way.

But the subsequent free-kick was blasted into the wall and nothing came of it after all.

Apart from Singapore’s two half-time changes in introducing the very talented Saifullah Akbar and Rusyaidi Salime, further changes included the introduction of Danish Irfan and Nur Luqman, plus Akram Azman and there had also been a forced change late in the first-half when Irfan Najeeb made way for Syed Firdaus.

All told both teams changed their entire eleven before the end, with Singapore even taking off their keeper and replacing him in the 75th minute with Home United rookie Kenji Rusydi.

It was the Australia keeper who had the most to do over the concluding stages, with James Delianov saving brilliantly from Saifullah who had received a nice square pass from Rusyaidi to set up the chance.

Singapore could have also have had claims for a penalty when Saifullah appeared to be brought down by Moud Najjar in the 86th.

Rusyaidi also skied a good chance in the 72nd from Haiqal’s pass, while right at the end Australia failed to make it 2-0 when John Roberts twice put the ball wide from good openings created by Connor Metcalfe.

Overall it was a good workout for both sides, with Australia’s need for match practice more pressing than Singapore’s.

Singapore coaching spokesman, Noh Rahman, was pleased with the effort.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, it’s getting to play games against international opponents that’s important,” he ventured.

“We did well today and coach Nazri (Nasir) was definitely pleased with the performance.

Australia coach Ante Milicic was also satisfied with the performance by his Young Socceroos.

“We were very pleased to be able to play a game in Singapore before going to Indonesia (for the AFC Under-19 Championships) as not only did we get the chance to play against a team that plays in a similar way to our first Group opponents from Korea, but everything about being in Singapore ahead of those games is ideal for us for creating the right mood and atmosphere, as Singapore is safe and has good hotels, good food and a relaxed environment.

Unfortunately one cloud hung over the game, with Ramy Najjarine being stretchered off after a wild challenge from highly experienced Singaporean defender Shakir Hamzah in the 58th minute, robbing the team of its most industrious and creative player for the remainder of the match.

The injury Najjarine sustained would have had to be assessed later, but the medical staff were not too confident that he would recover in time to take his place in the team for the opening match in Indonesia, when Back-of-the-net spoke to them post-match.

The coach didn’t dwell on that incident, however, explaining that his team is still a work in progress.

“We have not been together long as a group,” Milicic went on.
“And we still need to work on a lot of things; we know that the opening game against the Koreans will present a difficult challenge, but we will look at what we do best which is to play well as a unit and ensure that we are at our optimum fitness-wise; our strength compared to other teams is our reliance on first-rate sports science and nutrition to make the most of our players physically at least. We have always been good in this aspect of elite sport.

Australia had earlier beaten another young side across the Causeway in Johor Darul Ta’zim at Stadium Pasir Gudang 2-1 the previous Thursday night, with goals from Gbenga Folami and Joshua Cavallo.

Match details:

Singapore Selection:
Zharfan Rohaizad (GK)(C) (Kenji Rusydi 75); Shakir Hamzah (Danish Irfan 70, Shaqi Sulaiman (Lionel Tan 59), Joshua Pereira (Rusyaidi Salime 46), Faritz Hamid (Akram Azman 64); Irfan Najeeb (Syed Firdaus 38, Khalili Khalif 80), Hami Syahin (Justin Hui 81), Arshad Shamim (Nur Luqman 74), Syukri Bashir (Saifullah Akbar 46); Haiqal Pashia (Saul Katz 81), Syahrul Sazali (Gareth Low 70)

Acting Coach: Nazri Nasir

Australia Under-19s:

James Delianov (GK); Nathaniel Atkinson (Joshua Cavallo 62), Tass Mourdoukoutas (Dylan Ryan 71), Con Ouzounidis (Matthew Cordier 71), Sebastian Pasqali (C1) (Christian Theoharous 62); Remy Naijarine (Dylan Pierias (C2) 62), Gbenga Folami (Angus Thurgate 62), Walter Scott (Moudi Najar 64), Tate Russell (Connor Metcalfe 59), Oliver Puflett (John Roberts 46); Apostolos Stamatelopoulos (John Iredale 62)

Coach: Ante Milicic

Referee: Muhammad Zulfiqar 5/10

Yellow cards: Shaqi Sulaiman (S) 32, Arshad Shamim (S) 47, Haiqal Pashia (S) 49, Shakir Hamzar (S) 58, Dylan Ryan (A) 81

Attendance 250 approx

Weather: Warm and humid

Pitch 8/10
Match: 8/10

Australia U19           Ko Po Hui

Singapore Selection

Photos of teams: By Ko Po Hui
Field photos: Paul Green