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Anumanthan can grow to be like Hariss: Sundram

MANILA — Snapping into tackles and tenaciously harassing his opponents on and off the ball, Lions midfielder M Anumanthan cut an energetic figure in the middle of the pitch during Singapore’s opening Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup match against the Philippines on Saturday.

Anumanthan can grow to be like Hariss: Sundram

Anumanthan (right, against the Philippines on Saturday) was outstanding on his Suzuki Cup debut. Photo: Jason Quah

MANILA — Snapping into tackles and tenaciously harassing his opponents on and off the ball, Lions midfielder M Anumanthan cut an energetic figure in the middle of the pitch during Singapore’s opening Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup match against the Philippines on Saturday.

Watching him confidently go head to head — and consistently come out on top — against some of the Philippines’ biggest stars, such as Stephan Schrock, Manuel Ott and Phil Younghusband, nobody would have guessed that the Hougang United star was making his debut in the competition.

Indeed, the 22-year-old was one of the star performers on the night as Singapore, who had to play the majority of the 90 minutes with 10 men following Hafiz Sujad’s 34th minute dismissal, held out for a valuable point as both teams battled to a 0-0 draw.

Unsurprisingly, his mature performance caught the eye of national head coach V Sundramoorthy, who believes Anumanthan has what it takes to be as good as Singapore midfield lynchpin Hariss Harun in future.

“It’s never easy for a young player to come into an international tournament having so far mostly played club football during his career,” Sundram told TODAY.

“But he held his fort and had a very decent outing against the Philippines. He has done well so far ... I think his performance speaks for itself, and I believe that if he continues to work hard he can mature to become like Hariss one day.”

While admitting he was “satisfied” with his Suzuki Cup debut, Anumanthan insisted that his main focus remains on helping the team perform to their best. “The performance of the team overall is what matters most to me,” he said. “I can play very well individually, but if we don’t get the result, then it doesn’t mean anything. So my main focus is to continue to work hard for the team and carry out coach Sundram’s instructions as well as I can.”

With Singapore set to take on defending champions Thailand in their second Suzuki Cup group stage match today, Sundram hinted that Anumanthan could retain his place in the midfield alongside Hariss as he seeks to find a way past the tournament favourites.

“Of course Anu stands a chance to start in our next game (against Thailand),” said Sundram. “Whenever Anu plays, Hariss is given the freedom to push up in attack and express himself. At the same time, Hariss also has the legs to run back and provide cover in midfield if needed as well. So it’s a balanced pairing.” NOAH TAN IN MANILA

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