Penalties End Singaporean Hold On SOS Cup

Two penalty shootouts on the same night yielded two very different outcomes for the Singaporean sides, as the S.League Selection’s attempt at a Sultan of Selangor’s Cup hat trick came to an unsuccessful end on Sunday evening.

Shahril Ishak saw the team’s crucial fifth spot kick saved, after Ashrin Shariff’s goal ten minutes from time had forced a 2-2 draw with the Selangor Selection.

It was a tense and high-stakes way to end an excellent night of football, as players and fans from the two lands had gathered in a celebration of older times and an extension of that dizzying spirit into the modern day.

And after two consecutive years of Singaporean pre-eminence in the series, they finally had to relinquish to the Merah Kuning the sterling silver trophy, although the Singapore Veterans won the shootout in their game to retain a share of the spoils.

The event’s organizers had promised fans more than the usual and much-loved football action this year, and they did not disappoint as a two-hour concert kept the early birds entertained at Shah Alam Stadium.

David Arumugam, Mas Idayu and Ella sang their way into the hearts of everyone present, including several members of the Singapore Veterans team, who were warming up on the sidelines.

For the majority of the 50,000 who had turned up on the evening, though, there was only one thing on their minds as the footballers of yesteryear lined up for the first act of the annual doublebill.

As the flags waved and the drums rolled, that familiar tingle of excitement filled the players’ bodies as they strived to showcase what they were able to keep from their famed array of tricks and flicks.

They certainly worked harder than before to put their best foot forward, as the hilarious gaffes of past Veterans matches gave way to a slow but silky passing game.

And while S. Rajagopal’s heart was strong enough to last for the best part of 15 minutes, it was the younger legs of Syed Faruk, Terry Pathmanathan et al that carried the teams for much of the 40-minute match.

It was hard to dispute goalkeeper Lim Chiew Peng’s role in the opener by Selangor Veterans striker P. Somasundram, and for a time it seemed that the hosts could avenge their defeat last year on the same ground.

But Pathmanathan’s late conversion from centreback to striker gave the Singapore Veterans fresh ideas in attack, and it was from his last-gasp shot that Au Yeong Pak Kuan picked up the rebound and fired home the leveller.

The game had to be decided by penalties – and the penalties seemed to go on and on as player after player converted their shots.

Singapore Veteran Robert Sim’s effort was especially memorable after he had conned Rashid Hassan into a comical premature dive, but it eventually took to a miss by Somasundram to decide the winner after eight rounds.

That set the kickoff for the second match back by about 20 minutes, and the S.League Selection seemed keen to make up for lost time when it was finally their turn to play.

Two minutes was all it took for them to race into a 1-0 lead, as a low pass by Fahrudin Mustafic was swept crisply home from outside the box by Tetsuya Okayama, with strike partner Aleksandar Duric selling the Selangor defence a clever dummy.

The early goal stunned the home crowd into silence even before they could get themselves into the mood, and in truth it could have provided the perfect platform for V. Sundramoorthy’s side to express themselves with extravagant abandon.

Indeed, the hosts’ defensive vulnerabilities were on show for much of the first half, when another astute Mustafic pass found Duric onside on the right flank on 17 minutes.

The evergreen striker did well to chase the ball down, but got greedy and shot into the side netting despite Kaze Teffo Giscard’s frantic surge into the box from the left.

It was a miss that would come back to haunt Duric later in the half, when Mohd Safee Sali and Frank Seator combined well to press the visitors’ defence and set the former up for the equalizer.

Safee’s goal was fair reward for Dollah Salleh’s side, who looked just a touch faster and sharper than the S.League Selection for much of the night.

The observation was curious considering Selangor’s tiring schedule of matches in the last four weeks, but the presence of the Sultan probably inspired the Malaysians into performing above what their bodies would normally have allowed them.

Safee definitely rose above himself once again just after the hour mark, when he swung an audacious bicycle kick past Lionel Lewis to make it 2-1 to the hosts.

From then on, it looked as if the S.League Selection’s hopes were lost, as Sundram made a flurry of changes to his team, some of them enforced by injuries.

But as it turned out, one of the substitutes introduced came good. The man in question was Ashrin Shariff, drafted into the squad in the last minute and thrown on to replace the exhausted Okayama with 20 minutes left.

Ashrin made his contribution just ten minutes later, when he picked up an excellent cross by Giscard and slammed his shot home from close range as two offside players stood still to avoid denying him the goal.

With no further goals scored, the game went down to penalties, and things got off to a bad footing for first taker Ali Imran Lomri as he skied his shot.

Fortunately for the Sengkang Punggol man, Lewis was able to save one of the Selangor Selection’s spot kicks, giving the visitors hope that they could force sudden death.

For that to happen, though, the S.League Selection had to convert their crucial fifth penalty, after Indra Putra Mahayuddin had scored his to put the hosts 6-5 up.

Shahril’s soft shot was too easy to save, however, and the midfielder could only turn away in dejection as the crowd at Shah Alam erupted into celebratory cheers for the first time in three years.

Lewis, Sundram satisfied despite defeat

S.League Selection captain Lionel Lewis acknowledged that he was disappointed not to win the match against the Selangor Selection, but felt that the team had already done well considering their limited preparations.

The hastily-assembled Selection team had only one training session on the eve of the match, and the performance the players nonetheless managed provided some consolation for the Home United custodian.

“Having only had one day of training, I think it was good that we managed to play some good football,” he said after the match.

“You can’t expect too much from just one day’s training, but everybody gave 100% today. Credit goes to Selangor for playing very well, but it was a bit unlucky that the match had to finish on penalties.

“We had the chances in the first half, and in football, the most important thing is to take your chances. I’m disappointed to lose, like anybody else, but this game gives us a reason to look forward to next year.

“The hotel, the training facilities, everything has been arranged really well by the organizers. Credit goes to them for having made this event a success.”

V. Sundramoorthy also acknowledged that various factors made the hosts’ victory a reasonable ending to an open, end-to-end match.

Rather than analyze the defeat, the S.League Selection coach focused on the entertainment aspect of the game, which he felt was more than adequately addressed by the four goals scored in regulation time.

“Selangor had to be favourites to do something in this game,” he reasoned.

“They have many national players, three good foreigners, and a crowd of 40,000 or 50,000 behind them. Looking at our side, it was the first time this Selection was playing the match together, and I think they put up a great show and enjoyed themselves out there.

“To come back from one goal down showed the great spirit we had. It’s cruel to lose in a penalty shootout, but that’s the way the game goes, and we have to be sporting about it and wish all the players from both sides the best in their futures.”

After holding the reins of the S.League Selection for the last two years, Sundram was coy on whether he would continue in that capacity when the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup enters its eighth edition next year.

He however affirmed his interest in remaining as part of the Veterans team, noting that participating in the series has been a source of immense joy for him since he made his debut in the Veterans game two years ago.

“I love to come to the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup; I’ve had a good time every time I’ve been here,” said the 42-year-old.

“We get to meet old friends, and the younger players in the Selection matches have had the chance to know each other better. Getting them together to battle as one team for this game has been great.

“Will I still be coaching in 2009? It depends on whether I’m selected for that role or not. But the Veterans game was beautiful, and I can safely say that I want to come to this game every year as a Veterans player, whether or not I am coaching the Selection team.”

Selangor Selection: Suffian Abdul Rahman, D. Surendran (Indra Putra Mahayuddin 60’), Evans Chisulo, Nazrulerwan Makmur (Shafiq Ali 86’), Asraruddin Putra Omar (P. Gunalan 77’), Elie Aiboy, Amri Yahya, Shukor Adan, Amirulhadi Zainal, Frank Seator (R. Surendran 79’), Mohd Safee Sali.

S.League Selection: Lionel Lewis, Noh Rahman (Shariff Abdul Samat 76’), Precious Emuejeraye, Park Mun Ki, Kaze Teffo Giscard, Shi Jiayi (Shahril Ishak 58’), Fahrudin Mustafic (Rafi Ali 67’), Isa Halim (Ali Imran Lomri 79’), Mohd Noor Ali (Aliff Shafaein 65’), Tetsuya Okayama (Ashrin Shariff 71’), Aleksandar Duric.
Penalties End Singaporean Hold On SOS Cup Reviewed by admin Ucop on 1:09 PM Rating: 5

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