Shorthanded Singapore frustrates Azkals in a goalless standoff

Hassan Sunny and the Singapore backline hold like a brick wall against the Azkals, to force a draw on opening night.

By Kevin Estrada

BOCAUE -- No, not this time.

Even with a man down, Singapore showed to the Philippines why they are the four-time kings of ASEAN Football, forcing the hosts into a goalless draw to conclude the opening day of the AFF Suzuki Cup Saturday night here at the Philippine Sports Stadium.

The Lions overcame manpower disadvantage late in the first half, as V. Sundramoorthy leaned on defense, especially the stellar goalkeeping of Hassan Sunny to frustrate the potent Azkals offense to come away with a valuable point, sharing the second spot in group A in the process.

Half-time substitute Hikaru Minegishi wowed and dazzed the crowd with his UFL Golden Ball repertoire, but Thomas Dooley’s men were left to rue on their missed chances despite outshooting Singapore by 10.

The hosts were firing from the get go in a physical encounter in front of 4,339 supporters that braved the elements but were faced with a compact Singaporean defence.

32-year-old, Sunny, in his sixth AFF Championship, weathered a barrage of shots, including a thunderous free kick by Stephan Schrock in the 16th minute that was the closest the Azkals came to score in the first.

Hafiz Sujaz became the first player to be sent off in this competition in the 35th minute, when Syrian referee Masoud Tufaylieh gave him a straight red on a head first challenge on Phil Younghusband, reducing the Lions to just 10 men the rest of the way as both sides enter the dressing rooms with no goals to show for..

Minegishi made an instant impact after coming on for Iain Ramsay, as he gave the Singaporean backline tough fits in the second half by almost scoring on his Azkals debut, with four of his trysts at the goal left wanting.

But it was not the Azkals' day, as they were forced to share the points with their Singaporean counterparts, thanks to Sunny's heroics, as the result gives Thailand the early lead in the Group A table at the end of ninety minutes.

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