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‘Valuable lessons’ from Arsenal

SINGAPORE — They may have finished on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing to former Premier League champions Arsenal, but the test will prove beneficial to Singapore’s national players ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Arsenal's Chuba Akpom (right) celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Hector Bellerin. Photo: Reuters

Arsenal's Chuba Akpom (right) celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Hector Bellerin. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — They may have finished on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing to former Premier League champions Arsenal, but the test will prove beneficial to Singapore’s national players ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Tonight (July 15), the Londoners overcame a Singapore Selection — which contained many of the Republic’s national side — in front of 29,867 spectators at the National Stadium to reach the Barclays Asia Trophy final on Saturday, when they will face Premier League rivals Everton, who beat Stoke City on penalties in an earlier match.

A hat-trick from Chuba Akpom, and one from England international Jack Wilshere sealed the win for the Gunners as they kicked off their pre-season tour of Asia. The Singapore Selection will face Stoke City in the third place playoff on Saturday.

Singapore lead Group E of the World Cup qualifiers, and head coach V Sundramoorthy, who is also assistant to national coach Bernd Stange, believed the run out against the reigning FA Cup holders will aid the Lions’ preparations for the next qualifier against Syria on Sept 3.

“We were unlucky with the two penalties, if not the scoreline would have been more respectable,” said Sundram, who picked nine national players in his starting line-up today.

“Arsenal kept the ball and distributed it well. They were also strong in one-on-one situations. They did not rush their passes and lose possession of the ball unnecessarily, but kept it as much as possible. These are things we can look at (ahead of the next World Cup qualifier).”

Added defender Madhu Mohana: “We came out of the game with a lot of learning points and we definitely are more confident now.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger did not field his strongest line-up, with the likes of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla all left out.

It took the Gunners half an hour to finally break down the hosts’ resistance, with goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud unable to keep out Akpom’s strike. Wilshere’s penalty — after Sirina Camara fouled Mathieu Debuchy — doubled the Londoners lead after 60 minutes, before Akpom completed his hat-trick with a 76th minute penalty and a close range finish three minutes later.

Wenger, who admitted he knew nothing about the Singapore Selection, was diplomatic in his assessment of his opponents.

“I was surprised (by Singapore’s performance),” said the 65-year-old Frenchman. “They were absolutely electric and technically they were very good to keep the ball.

“But in the second half we were more physical and the cohesion was better when there were changes to four to five players as well.”

Today’s other game at the National Stadium saw Everton defeat Premier League rivals Stoke City 5-4 on penalties after it finished 0-0 at full-time.

While Stoke will have to face the hosts in the third place playoff, that was not the most important thing for manager Mark Hughes.

“It was a good workout despite the conditions which made it a little bit difficult but individual and as a collectively we look good. As a group we look strong and I am really satisfied,” he said.

His Everton counterpart Roberto Martinez singled out goalkeeper Tim Howard for making a crucial save to deny Marco van Ginkel during the shoot-out, and added: “It was a really competitive game and the two sides gave each other a good opportunity to push and the difference was Tim Howard who was able to save the penalty.”

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