Gunners had their moments of sporadic resistance and led by Soh Hang Kin, who fought defiantly, but ultimately Honduras were simply too good. There might have been just a one-goal lead during the halftime but, as Haresh and Asok Kumar Naidu scored in the second half, the gap in class was impossible to deny.
The statistics cannot convey the style in which Honduras played, but they can give you an indication of their dominance. They had 20 attempts on goal to Gunners’s five, had 66 per cent of the possession and completed more passes than Gunners. They imposed themselves with near total authority.
For the first 20 minutes, it looked like Gunners’ plan was working. They started with intensity and aggression, giving Honduras a lot of the ball and they were happy to sit back playing with a compact style of football. Veekneswaran Narayanan should have given Honduras the lead in the first five minutes, but the Gunners defence were everywhere, blocking his shot from point blank range. Gunners knew they only way they can get to Honduras’ penalty area was to play on the counter and they almost succeeded. In what seemed should be like a harmless clearance by Pavinthiran Batumalai, he instead sliced it and bounced off Lui Kai Lun. It looked like Gunners were going to take the lead with Kai Lun was clear through and Pavinthiran was no way near in goal but Thinakaran Veerappan made a last-ditch tackle to sent the ball out for a corner.
Once that initial burst of energy waned, Honduras found their composure. Haresh took control and Vimalesh Selvan made his first darting run off the game, finishing it with a pass to Veekneswaran, but the forward dragged his shot wide. Veekneswaran again hit one crisp shot wide and had a one-on-one opportunity saved by Tai Wai Kang after using his strength to outmuscle the Gunners’ defence. Gunners were being pushed deeper and deeper. They were struggling to hold on to the ball when they won it back, and there was an edge of desperation about their passing. Their forward line were nervous, struggled and kept losing possession of the ball.
It was little surprise when Honduras took the lead. Just a harmless throw-in which found its way to the edge of the Gunners’ penalty box, it fell to the feet of Prem Kumar Soundarajan. Left unmarked and Soh Hang Kin was not close enough, the midfielder took one look up towards the goal and let fly one shot that sent the ball to the bottom right of Wai Kang’s goal.
Kong Jia Yong was becoming animated on the touchline, clearly frustrated at the way his team were surrendering possession. Yet Gunners were not going to roll over, holding on through until the half-time whistle in order to regroup trying to find a way to contain the Honduras powerhouse machine.
The second half resumed and the story remained the same. Honduras continue to dominate possession and there was very little Gunners could do. Kai Lun did show some glimpses of brilliance, running past defenders, twisting and turning but did not amount to any fruition. Tan Wah Yong, who gave a herculean effort in the second leg of their semi-final match against Quattro FC, seemed anonymous in this game. Lye Moon Yung could also not battle with the strength of the Honduras’ players.
Gunners could not keep Honduras out for long, though, not sitting that deep and with that little of the ball. Veekneswaran and Vimalesh were almost at walking pace in the last third when they worked the ball to Haresh, who dribbled the ball into the penalty box, dummying a couple of defenders along the way and shot low and into the net. He should have been closed down more effectively but the shot was far out of reach of Wai Kang and he could only stay rooted to his feet watching the ball flew past him.
Although Honduras had 20 attempts on goal, Wai Kang did not really have much to do with only six of those attempts were on target. He, however, could not do anything to stop Honduras’ third goal. Haresh again went shimmying into the Gunners area and sensing fatigue in the Gunners defence, took one bursting run into the penalty box and was immediately brought down to the floor. The referee pointed to the spot and Asok blasted the ball home to bring the score three goals to nil, effectively ending any hopes for Gunners to get back into the game.
With the game being played at one end to an almost embarrassing degree, Honduras was queueing up to take shots at Wai Kang, trying to find a fourth goal. The goalkeeper made notable stops Haresh, then Veekneswaran, then Vimelesh, and did just enough to ensure no more goals were being conceded. Even Jia Yong was trying to rally his team from the touchline to get a goal in the dying minutes. It showed the mental strength of those two individuals that they refused to give up — even against all the evidence of Honduras’ superiority.