Harimau Muda 3 Syahrul 14’, Robbat 45’, Thamil 94’
Tanjong Pagar 0
Photo courtesy of FAS
Harimau Muda comfortably beat Tanjong Pagar 3-0 at the Yishun Stadium in their first ever home game in the S-League, on a pitch made slick by a light drizzle.
Backed by a good Malaysian crowd, the Tigers pressed hard straight from the kickoff, and winger Wan Zack Haikal flashed a couple of shots wide within the first ten minutes. Jaguars goalkeeper Shamsudin Hashim was then called into action when he made a brilliant point-blank block from Syahrul Azwari, who had looked offside as he latched on to a ball over the defence.
The pressure paid off eventually in the 14th minute, when captain Affize Faisal raced on to a through ball down the right and got to the byline to whip in a low cross to the far post, where Syahrul had the simple task of slotting home.
Wan Zack Haikal continued to be a menace down the right, as another shot forced a good save at the near post from Shamsudin. Lee Joo Sang then looked to have been put through by Takaya Kawanabe on the break for Tanjong Pagar, but he was flagged offside in what seemed like a wrong call.
Fandi Othman then saw his freekick from the right well tipped over by Shamsudin on the half-hour, before Nazirul Naim denied Takaya with a superb block after a neat turn-and-pass from Asraf Rashid had sent the Jaguars skipper racing clear. The Japanese striker then saw his freekick from 25 yards out well parried, as the wet ball meant that both goalies were opting for a safety-first approach.
The away side were then dealt a blow on the stroke of half-time, as Shamsudin fumbled a routine cross at his near post, and the loose ball fell to Gary Robbat to double the home team’s lead.
Tanjong Pagar looked for a way back into the game in the second half, and they did threaten more. Jang Injun’s powerful effort from range on the hour mark stung the palms of Izham Tarmizi, while the goalkeeper watched in relief ten minutes later as Lee Joo Sang fired wildly over the bar from a promising position.
Thamil Arasu then had a chance to score a third for Harimau Muda in the 75th minute as he rounded Shamsudin but could only fire into the side netting from a tight angle. The Jaguars were still threatening to get a goal, as Jang hit a snapshot into the side netting and Takaya blasted a freekick wide, before Hafiz Osman headed over from a Serge Souchon corner.
However, two minutes into added time, any hopes they had of salvaging something from the game were dashed when Hafiz earned a straight red card for an apparent stamp on a fallen opponent.
Jonathan Xu then flew in recklessly on Ferris Danial as the striker raced clear into the box, and Thamil Arasu stepped up to coolly dispatch the ensuing spotkick into the top corner with the last kick of the game.
The Malaysians were full value for their win, as they were the faster, stronger and more skilful side, despite their youthfulness. Their starting lineup averaged 20.2 years-old, but they were never overawed by their more experienced opponents.
Playing a quick, short passing game, the Tigers were in control for most of the game. Their wingers and overlapping fullbacks caused problems time and again down the flanks, while they were also solid in defence, not afraid to go in hard when required.
Tanjong Pagar never quite got to grips with the pace of the game dictated by the home side, although they did improve in the second half. Takaya and Lee toiled fruitlessly upfront, while Souchon had a poor game on the right wing, as he constantly lost possession. The final ball was mostly poor on the occasions they managed to foray into the attacking third.
Hanafi Salleh did have a good game at rightback, as he put in a few good challenges, while apart from his red card, Hafiz also fared well in a central defence role.
Jaguars coach Terry Pathmanathan certainly didn’t hold back after the match as he called his team’s play “silly”. He also commented on Hafiz’s sending off, saying:
“When chasing the game, we cannot afford to play with 10, 9 or 8 men… To make matters worse, Jonathan had to go in with that kind of tackle.
“I cannot understand… senior players doing this kind of things. They are here to guide the younger players. At the end of the day we should always walk out with 11 men. It’s about how you lose; losing by 2 goals, we could have come out with our heads up.
“I won’t take away credit from Harimau Muda. They are technically a very strong team, with youngsters who are comfortable on the ball. Although they are a young team, they can play better than us, and I hope we can learn something from today.
Terry did reserve praise for goalkeeper Shamsudin despite his blunder, saying that he was “superb” in goal, while he was also of the opinion that Zahid Ahmad did well after being moved to central midfield in the second half.
Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee expressed confidence in his side, but was also cautious.
“We have to be realistic, as it’s only been two games. We have three matches coming up, in (the span of) ten days, and also have an Olympic qualifier in Jordan, so I have to be careful with the players I choose to play.”
He also emphasized the importance of playing quality opposition for youth development, saying that it was crucial to play more international matches to ensure consistency at Asian level.
Harimau Muda: Izham Tarmizi, Affize Faisal (C), Amer Saidin, Fadhli Shas, Nazirul Naim, Wan Zack Haikal (Thamil Arasu 55’), Azzizan Nordin, Gary Robbat (Nazmi Faiz 52’), Fandi Othman, Syahrul Azwari (Ferris Danial 88’), Irfan Fazail. Unused subs: Farhan Abu Bakar, D. Saarvindran, Shahrul Saad, Izuan Salahuddin.
Tanjong Pagar: Shamsudin Hashim, Hanafi Salleh, Hafiz Osman, Jonathan Xu, Zahid Ahmad, Serge Souchon, Jang Injun, Syed Karim (Delwinder Singh 45’), Asraf Rashid, Takaya Kawanabe (C), Lee Joo Sang. Unused subs: Fajar Sarib, Sudhershen Hariam, Justin Khiang, S. Vikneshwaran, Abdul Rahim, Haiduar Raffick.
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