Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Thoughts on the Suzuki Cup Finals’ First Leg

Mustafic Fahrudin scored on a penalty, re-took it after an encroachment call, and nailed once more for good measure to give Singapore a 1-0 lead. In the history of the Suzuki Cup, the team that scored first and won the first leg has taken home the title. 

My Thoughts on the Suzuki Cup Finals’ First Leg
by rick olivares pic from aff suzuki cup

First leg: Singapore 3 vs. Thailand 1
December 19, 2012
Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore

Singapore defeated heavy favorite Thailand, 3-1, last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the first leg of the 2012 Suzuki Cup Finals. Fahrudin Mustafic converted on a twice-taken penalty in the 8th minute (after encroachment by Singaporean players) to give the Lions an early lead. Thailand, who had not tasted defeat in the entire competition in winning all five of its assignments from the group stages to the semifinals leveled in the 59th minute when forward Teerasil Dangda slipped a cross to an unmarked Adul whose close range shot beat Izwan Mahbud for the equalizer.

However, the celebratory feel of the War Elephants not to mention their supporters, was short-lived as Singapore forwards Aleksandar Duric and Khairul Amri’s one-two pass combination saw the latter boot in a sharp shot that ducked under the arms of Thai keeper Kawin.

The home side later added an insurance goal when defender Baihakki Khaizan tapped in a corner shot by Shaiful Esah in the 92nd minute for a 3-1 win heading into the winner-take-all second leg in Bangkok this Saturday, December 22.

Singapore is looking to bag its fourth Suzuki Cup title at the expense of fellow three-time winner Thailand that has performed much better under head coach Winfried Schafer.

The Lions booked their finals seat after booting out the Philippines in their semifinals series. It was sweet revenge for Singapore after the Azkals’ semifinals entry in 2010 edged them out of the tournament and the two losses the vastly improved Filipinos inflicted on them prior to the 2012 Suzuki Cup.

Let’s break the match down:
Playing physical is a tactic if not an advantage
In terms of physicality, the Lions mauled the War Elephants. It’s a lesson the Philippines would do well to learn. Thailand for all their fabulous game, were also physically stronger against the Azkals. The rule of physicality is this:  Knock the opponent around a bit. If the referee doesn’t blow his whistle then the player thinks about if he is going to get a call or not. And that distracts him from the match at hand.

War Elephants’ midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao got knocked silly by Bai Khaizan and Mustafic Fahrudin but the Thais gave as good as they got with Aleksandar Duric getting knocked around in what is perhaps his final Suzuki Cup appearance.

In the flow of the game, one has to find his second wind
In this tournament, the Lions have scored four goals in the first half and six in the second half.

The War Elephants have likewise scored four goals in the first 45 minutes and six goals in the second half.

In all of Thailand’s matches, they have had control of the midfield whereas Singapore has struggled to gain control against Indonesia and twice against the Philippines. But the Lions are the ones in the finals because of their steadfastness. They came back from being down 2-1 against Laos and withstood the pressure from Thailand after they secured the crucial away goal. Singapore went up 2-1 to nullify the goal advantage of Thailand then scored in stoppage time to take the goal advantage in a 3-1 win.

It was an incredible performance where they pushed themselves to maximize their homefield advantage. Singapore had six players with 50 or more caps on the field for the match while Thailand fielded four. The experience helped the Lions as they reached deep for the extra tank on offense to secure a most incredible win.

Thailand’s midfield is no fluke
Singapore’s strategy was simple – nullify the War Elephants midfield. And they did just that by making sure they didn’t have the ball too long to make decisions. Singapore’s mids crowded Thailand’s and forced them to do something they have eschewed under Winfried Schafer – go to the longball.

However, after the 30th minute, Thailand’s midfield finally got going by simple resorting to their one-touch passing than trying to beat Singapore’s mids. They played the spaces well and were quick to expose the Lions’ holes on defense. They parlayed this into an equalizer. And Teerasil Dangda even attempted a cheeky curl that Mohamad Izwan was wise too (although he had to stretch to snag the ball).

But it wasn’t so easy trying to beat Bai Khaizan and Daniel Bennett who have the height to deal with high balls and can cover a lot of ground. Especially Bennett who may not have pace but he is a smart player who gets the most out of what he has.

Raddy Avramovic’s got balls
After the error by Shaiful Esah that lead to Thailand’s goal, Singapore kept sending up their defenders to pressure the War Elephants. None more so obvious during corners where Isa Halim would set up Esah from the corner – that’s one less man inside the box – and when you have Khaizan also inside the box, that leaves only Daniel Bennett to stay home. Furthermore that’s one less Lion inside the box to for a possible header or volley.

Khaizan booted in from close range for the score. Imagine if he missed because he would have to track back rather quickly along with Esah on a Thai counter.

It was a thoroughly entertaining first leg and Singapore came out huge winners. It should be noted that the first team to score and pull out a win in every Suzuki Cup (since it went to the two-legged format) has won the title. The second leg should be explosive.

1 comment:

  1. This series just shows how the azkals have progressed this past 2 years... The Azkals defeat to this two team shows how good a team we have right now, hoping for a good challenge cup performance this coming march