Hughes praise for Sundram's men
Stoke manager says home team can hold their heads high despite losing both games
STOKE CITY 2
(Steve Sidwell 6, Marko Arnautovic 73)
S'PORE SELECTION 0
They may have lost their match last night at the National Stadium and finished last in the four-team Barclays Asia Trophy.
But Singapore Selection coach V Sundramoorthy was pleased with the brand of football his side has produced in the tournament.
While the Potters dominated possession, Sundram's men played slick, passing football in the middle of the park, with Safuwan Baharudin almost scoring at the stroke of half-time, when his lob beat Shay Given, but not the right post.
Sundram, 49, said: "We went to sleep during the corner-kick when we conceded, but Safuwan almost put us back in the game when he missed the chance in the first half.
"Looking at the two games, I am very impressed with the boys. They have done great, and the way they played the game, passing the ball around, that's the way to go."
Stoke City coach Mark Hughes was effusive in praising the home team.
The former Manchester United striker said: "They did really well. They had great energy, great enthusiasm for the game and you could see that they had great ideas tactically.
"They had a definite game plan, but obviously we are a big, strong Premier League side and maybe they lack that little bit of power that the Premier League teams have.
"That was the key difference, and they can be pleased with their performance in both games."
Stoke led early in the game, through Steve Sidwell's sixth-minute opener. Peter Crouch rose highest during a corner kick to nod the ball towards Sidwell at the near post for him tap home.
The likes of Peter Odemwingie, Mame Biram Diouf, Stephen Ireland and Crouch could have added to the scoresheet, if not for heroics of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who continues to build on his growing reputation as a shot-stopper.
Sundram said: "He kept us in the game... he saved the day and, without him, we would have been in trouble."
But Izwan was beaten in the 73rd minute, when Marko Arnautovic sidestepped a Singapore defender in the box to place the ball past the LionsXII custodian.
Despite the results, the performances of the Singaporeans - mostly national players - in the Singapore Selection over the two games, as well as the 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw against Japan last month, have given them confidence for the next qualifier against Syria in September.
This is especially so, after the Lions chalked up poor results earlier in the year, such as the 2-2 draw with Guam and a narrow 2-1 victory over Bangladesh.
Izwan, 25, said: "Of course it has boosted our confidence, especially after the Japan game. It was a great opportunity playing against Premiership teams... and we've learnt a lot."
Striker Khairul Amri added: "In terms of tactics and passing, we were playing well, but we were lacking in the final third.
"We are sitting comfortably (at the top of Group E), but we can't relax. These games give us confidence for the Syria game and we hope to get at least a point playing away."
- STOKE: Shay Given, Phil Bardsley, Geoff Cameron, Philipp Wollscheid, Marc Muniesa (Marc Wilson, 74), Glenn Whelan (Charlie Adam, 46), Steven Sidwell (Stephen Ireland, 66), Marco van Ginkel (Joselu, 66), Peter Odemwingie (Moha, 80), Peter Crouch (Mame Biram Diouf, 46), Marko Arnautovic
- S'PORE SELECTION: Izwan Mahbud (Zaiful Nizam 82), Nazrul Nazari (Yasir Hanapi, 66), Baihakki Khaizan (Gabriel Quak, 77), Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq, Nicolas Velez (Faris Ramli, 57), Shahdan Sulaiman, Safuwan Baharudin, Sirina Camara (Hafiz Abu Sujad, 46), Khairul Amri (Fazrul Nawaz, 82)
"They did really well. They had great energy, great enthusiasm for the game and you could see that they had great ideas tactically."
- Potters boss Mark Hughes, on the Singapore Selection
'Stoke will get stronger'
He had hoped for more substitutions, to give more players a run out at the Barclays Asia Trophy here, which ended last night.
But Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is happy with how his team have performed so far in pre-season, given the influx of new players such as Glen Johnson, Shay Given, Moha, Marco van Ginkel and Jakob Haugaard.
Following his side's 2-0 victory over the Singapore Selection last night, the 51-year-old (right) said: "I've been really pleased with what they've produced here... the number of substitutions (six) didn't allow me to make wholesale changes in the game."
He added that, ideally in pre-season games, he'd like to gradually give players more playing time to ease them into competitive football.
But the former Manchester United striker is happy his new signings are integrating into the team, with only Johnson not getting any action in Singapore.
Hughes said: "I am encouraged by the technical quality we have added to the group, like how Joselu adds to the overall technical ability of the squad.
"Apart from Glen, everyone has some game time and the more time they have with their new teammates, the better they will be.
"We are encouraged not only by their abilities, but also their personalities... and we will be stronger."
Already, Peter Crouch has waxed lyrical about the good work that Hughes is doing at the club, as well as the quality of the players the manager has attracted to the Britannia Stadium.
The Potters - who finished ninth in the past two seasons and are going to embark on an eighth successive season in the top flight - may yet see another new signing before facing Liverpool in their first league game of the new season.
Dynamo Kiev striker Andriy Yarmolenko, who has bagged 68 goals in 172 games since joining the club in 2007 from Desna Chernihiv, is said to be close to a move to Stoke on a £13.5 million ($28.9m) transfer.
Quizzed on the move last night, Hughes dropped a strong hint when he said: "We've had conversations with a lot of people and connections with good players, and these conversations have taken place since the new year.
"He (Yarmolenko, right) is the type of player we hope to bring in, and we've missed out on quite a number of players.
"A player of his type is on our radar and, if we get a top, top player, then we should be done in the transfer market."