Tottenham Hotspur’s return to Singapore ends with the Tiger Cup in their hands following a 5-1 win over Lion City Sailors. The Singapore team (who were replacements for AS Roma) may not have been as illustrious as Juventus a couple of years back, but the match still provided much entertainment to the attending fans.
Spurs started with a strong team at the National Stadium — pretty much what their first team will look like ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League season.
That strength translated onto the pitch from the start. Several chances were created in the opening minutes, the most notable being Harry Kane’s close effort.
However, Tottenham’s defensive fragilities were again laid bare. A swift counter-attack sprung in the 13th minute after Ben Davies’ ball was cut out by Lion City Sailors midfielder Rui Pires. After passing it to Maime Lestienne, he crosses it to Shawal Anuar, who ghosted behind Pedro Porro to poke home. Spurs were caught napping once again.
Following the goal, Tottenham immediately tried to hit back. James Maddison was their most dangerous attacker, forcing two strong saves from keeper Zharfan Rohaizad via a long-range strike from a cleared corner and a low shot when he was found inside the box by Dejan Kulusevski.
Other notable chances came from the likes of Pape Matar Sarr, who flicked the top of the crossbar with his dinked effort, and Kulusevski, whose shot brought a good save at the near post. Still, there was no goal.
To their credit, Lion City Sailors were brave for most of the half, remaining compact and mostly limiting Tottenham to half chances, all while occasionally trying to venture forward. It wasn’t all “park the bus” tactics.
Eventually, though, something had to give. In the last minute of the half, Sarr nipped in front of Pires and drew a lazy boot — it’s a stonewall penalty. Harry Kane stepped up and thundered home the penalty to the right, sending the keeper the wrong way.
The second half saw a new lineup appear for Spurs, and they provided a scoreline more like you would expect, though most of it was due to Lion City Sailors’ own doing.
A miscommunication from the Lion City Sailors players saw them surrender possession to Tottenham in the final third. Giovani Lo Celso’s effort deflects off two players, but Richarlison nets the rebound to give Spurs the lead.
Richarlison then doubled his tally after capitalising on a poor header by Pedro Henrique. Two goals in 7 minutes — whatever encouragement Lion City Sailors had garnered during the first half had dissipated with those two quick-fire goals.
From then on, it was all Tottenham. Ivan Perišić goes close after a quick give-and-go with Lo Celso, Manor Solomon volleys onto the post from Sergio Reguilón, and Richarlison has two goals chalked off for offside. The Lion City Sailors players were pinned within their own half.
The breakthrough finally came in the 72nd minute. Lo Celso made it 4 after getting on the end of a deflected cross from Solomon.
Richarlison then rounded off the game by completing his hat trick a few seconds after normal time. He drove into the box after Oliver Skipp flicked Emerson Royal’s pass into his path and poked home the ball past the keeper.
The final whistle soon blew, and Spurs went on to lift the Tiger Cup in front of over 25,000 spectators at the National Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur fans and Ange Postecoglou will have a lot of positives to take from the match. The new system was evident throughout the game, with the fullbacks very involved as the likes of Emerson Royal and others frequently took up narrow positions. Maddison, Lo Celso, and Solomon were also bright sparks in the attack.
Still, there are things that the team has to work on. Ben Davies had to come in as a make-shift centre-back, and his loose pass may have been why Spurs got countered, but much of the blame should be laid on the covering defence’s inability to track Anuar’s run. It is a recurring theme from last season.
Despite the early scare, the game was ultimately a procession for the Spurs team. Tottenham Hotspur will next return home for a match with Shakhtar Donetsk from Ukraine. They end their preseason on 8 August 2023 by facing off Barcelona, good preparation ahead of their first game in the Premier League — an away match at Brentford.
But that isn’t the last bit of football that Singapore has to offer! Fans can catch Liverpool against Leicester City and Bayern Munich in the coming days. You can also expect us to be at these matches, so be sure to follow us on our socials on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to see our coverage.
If you’d like to know more about the Singapore Festival of Football event and all its activities, you can head over to Singapore Sports Hub’s official website, or check out their socials on Facebook and Instagram.
Photos by Brendan Tan and Lau Lup Yun of the DANAMIC Team.