The Singapore Select XI were outclassed 4 goals to nil by an efficient Arsenal team that did not include high-profile players such as Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, and new signing Petr Cech in their line-up of 17 players.
Speaking at Tuesday’s pre-match conference, manager Arsene Wenger stated that he would be giving chances to some fringe players in the team against Singapore. He kept to his word and handed starts to non-regulars like 19-year-old winger Alex Iwobi, third-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, as well as Chuba Akpom up front, who scored 3 goals.
Singapore’s XI went 1-0 behind in the 30th minute when Chuba Akpom’s shot deflected off keeper Izwan Mahbud into the net. In the second half, Mathieu Debuchy went down to a Sirina Camara challenge at the edge of the penalty area, and Izwan Mahbud brought down Akpom. Both penalties were scored before Akpom completed his treble with a powering header from a Hector Bellerin cross.
Most chances from the local team were created ironically through the foreign players brought in by coach V.Sundramoorthy. Warriors FC striker Nicholas Velez and left-sided Camara from Home United brought pace and a willingness to run at defenders, only matched by national striker Khairul Amri. It was a spirited performance overall, but individual and team quality from Arsenal brought them home.
Too Fast Too Furious
Despite the disappointing result, Sundramoorthy says he and the players are not discouraged: “The Selection Team has done well, the boys competed and we were unlucky with the 2 penalties. If not, it could have been much more respectable.”
He added that another factor that contributed to the loss was the fact that most of the Muslim players in the team were fasting. Sundramoorthy also claimed that his team would have played better in the second half had it not been for the circumstances.
“The way Arsenal kept the ball, they circulated the ball well. (There were) a lot of wall passes and 1 versus 1s. These are things we can positively take.”
Up next for them is Stoke City, which lost to Everton in an earlier match. Sundramoorthy, rather commendably, insisted that his side would not abandon the style of play they tried to implement with Arsenal against Stoke.
He continued: “Stoke finished really high up last year. We’ve to deal with the crosses in the box, the long balls, flick-ons, and set pieces. We’ve to try and get taller players in the box to do proper marking, and not to concede easy goals.”
A Bore Draw
Everton played Stoke City to a 0-0 draw, with the Toffees edging out 5-4 on penalties. New signing Marco Van Ginkle was the only one who missed the spot kick for Stoke.
Everton started off brightly with Kevin Mirallas being a consistent threat on the right wing. He came up against left-back Dionatan Teixeira and cut in towards goal in the 10th minute, before having his weak shot saved easily by Jakob Haugaard. Teammate Steven Pienaar didn’t have that much of space however, as Stoke players were clearly instructed to close him down every time he got the ball.
Stoke’s main man of the night was the team’s opposite winger. Marko Arnautovic displayed classy first touches and runs that caused a lot of trouble for Everton right-back Tony Hibbert. He came especially close in the 28th minute when he slipped through in on goal, only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from Phil Jagielka. The fans around the stadium immediately identified him as the main danger man, with cheers of anticipation heard every time he got on the ball.
Apart from Peter Odemwingie’s 10-yarded shot gone wide in the first half and Lukaku’s disallowed goal towards the end, chances were few and far between.
Young Talent Given Chances
Everton do have one more cause for joy, and that comes in the form of young defender Tyias Browning, who was extremely composed throughout the game and dealt with Stoke striker Joselu with a maturity not often seen with defenders his age.
More work is to be done for the youngster to cement a place in the first team however, with John Stones and captain Jagielka clearly Roberto Martinez’s first choice centre-back pairing, although the former showed that the Everton boss is more than willing to give fresh faces a chance.
Fortunately for the Singapore team, that is exactly the type of willingness that Sundramoorthy has to give younger players the chance to express themselves.
“We have good talented young players coming up the ranks, and the only way to go forward is passing the ball and building up play, and trying to circulate the ball, trying to look for the right moment to have penetration.”
Photos courtesy of Ngau Kai Yan