Pummelled 5-0 by the defending champions in Friday's AFF Suzuki Cup opener, Cambodia still drew most cheers in Jakarta than import-reliant Singapore
Cambodia's Sun Sovannarith heads the ball over Singapore’s Aleksandar Duric – who once represented his native Bosnia-Herzegovina as an Olympic canoeist – during their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup match in Jakarta on Friday.
IT doesn't say much for a team's prospects when its best defender is a wide midfielder.
Two-time defending champion Singapore made a stuttering start to the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, taking most of the first half to find their feet before seeing off Cambodia 5-0.
While Singapore had the lion's share of shots, possession and scoring chances, coach Radojko Avramovic credited Cambodia for attempting to play.
"[Cambodia] didn't just concentrate on defence," he said. "They tried to compete. We didn't create enough chances to get an early goal, but we knew if we kept trying to create chances, the goal would come."
Singapore's offensive pressure kept Cambodia hemmed in their own end for much of the first half.
The Royals kept no fewer than three of their four defenders back to deal with Emuejeraye Precious and Aleksandar Duric, often utilising all four defenders and pinching in the wide midfielder on the weak side for defensive support.
That approach left Cambodia with few options up front. Long balls to forward pairing Khim Borey and Kouch Sokumpheak were easily cleared without runners providing support, and the two set-piece opportunities Cambodia had in the first half stood little chance with only three attacking players going up against Singapore's back line.
The seemingly inevitable breakthrough came in the 44th minute after the Cambodia penalty area devolved into an arcade shooting gallery.
An 18-yard shot by Shi Jiayi following a short corner was cleared off the line by Chan Rithy, with goalkeeper Samreth Seiha pulling off a picture-perfect kick save on Baihakki Bin Khaizan at the far post and a follow-up effort bouncing back off the crossbar.
The ball was cleared behind, giving Singapore another corner kick, and after the initial shot was cleared off the line, Agu Casmir stuffed home the rebound to give the Lions the lead.
Singapore's breakthrough was met largely with derision from the sparse but vocally pro-Cambodia crowd. The Lions were jeered throughout the match, with their naturalised players receiving particular attention from the spectators.
Defence by numbers
Cambodia spent the match defending with numbers, if not with skill. First touches by defenders frequently went astray, turning simple clearances into hurried attempts and, on more than one occasion, turnovers deep in their defensive end.
A 59th-minute penalty kick from captain Mustafic Fahrudin put the result beyond doubt.
Cambodia made a game effort at generating more offence from that point, but it was too little, far too late.
Indra Sahdan, brought on for Aleksandar Duric in the 55th minute, capped Singapore's best move of the night in the 70th. Fahrudin set off on a long run down the left and centred the ball to Casmir, who touched the ball on to Sahdan. The substitute took one touch before firing a low, hard shot past Seiha.
Casmir made it 4-0 two minutes later, stabbing home a deflected pass dribbling across the goalmouth.
Noh Alam Shah wrapped up the scoring just as regular time expired, running onto a first-time ball from Jiayi and beating Seiha one-on-one.
THE JAKARTA GLOBE