Thailand skipper Insiri Charoenruen single-handedly turned Singapore’s footballing dreams to dust this afternoon as he masterminded his country’s 4-1 crushing of the Republic at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Charoenruen, who scored three goals in the first-round group matches, scored twice today and had a hand in the other two to condemn Singapore to its second defeat in as many matches. The result means that Singapore is out of the running for a place in the semi-finals of the Asian Youth Games football tournament.
The Republic had lost 1-2 to Iran on Saturday but today’s display by the Young Cubs was a far cry from that gutsy performance against the Iranians which had warmed the hearts of the 2,500-strong crowd then.
Instead, Singapore was dominated by the Thais. Save for a bright patch midway through the first-half in which they matched the Thais in speed and aggression, the Cubs spent most of the match on the backfoot.
In fact, if it was not for several fine saves by goalkeeper Mohamad Fashah Iskandar. Singapore would have been badly thrashed by a Thai team that was itself thumped 0-7 by China in its first Group A match on Saturday.
Ironically, it was during Singapore’s bright patch that Charoenreun first struck. From 25 metres, he unleashed a rocket that screamed past the rooted Fashah into the net.
Singapore almost equalised in the 32nd minute when Muhd Adri Adnan struck a hopeful shot from the edge of the box and hit the bar. But it was Thailand that struck the psychological blow just before half-time.
Charoenreun blasted a 25m freekick which Fashah spilt while diving to collect, and Ponpai Todsaporn ran forward to tap the ball in.
It was the same story after the break.
Singapore continued to be pinned back in its half and Charoenreun made it 3-0 in the 70th minute with a strike that mirrored his first goal. Once again, Singapore goalkeeper Fashah was left rooted to the spot as the ball whizzed past him into the net.
Singapore’s Muhd Muhaimi Suhaimin netted a consolation goal in the 76th minute. But the joy was short-lived.
In injury time, Fashah spilt another freekick by Charoenreun and this time, it was Tanomnaew Komsan who followed up to tap the ball in and complete Singapore’s afternoon of misery.
In another Group A match, Iran became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals when it beat China 4-2.
Today’s results mean that Singapore is practically out of the tournament even though it has one match left to play – against China on Wednesday. It must beat China by a handsome margin and hope for Iran to beat Thailand in order to reach the last four.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan