Weak Singapore beaten by Malaysia in Under-21 derby
Zharfan's mistakes sum up limp display by Tardy's Under-21s
REPORTING FROM MALACCA
NATIONS CUP (UNDER-21)
(Muhammad Safawi Rasid 4, Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad 52, Nur Syamie Iszuan 84)
They went into the game with much promise, but the Singapore Under-21 side failed to deliver on the pitch, falling 3-0 to their Malaysian counterparts in their Nations Cup opener at the Hang Jebat Stadium last night.
Errors by goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad were punished by Muhammad Safawi Rasid and substitute Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad, before Nur Syamie Iszuan added a third to cap off a fine performance by the hosts, who in truth could have scored a few more.
Singapore coach Richard Tardy did not mince his words when he addressed the first two goals post-match.
"We conceded two stupid goals, especially the second goal. We were better at the beginning of the second half, but how we conceded the second goal killed the spirit of the team," the Frenchman said.
"Zharfan has made some mistakes for the Young Lions against Ceres (La Salle in a 3-1 loss in the RHB Singapore Cup last Sunday), but I wanted to keep his confidence so I played him.
"But he made big mistakes, and we must learn from this."
Singapore started the Causeway derby in the worst way possible, when Zharfan could only push a Muhd Jafri Firdaus free-kick against the inside of his post, giving Safawi the simplest of tap-ins after just four minutes.
The hosts should probably have gone two up nine minutes later when Adam Nor Azlin found himself one-on-one with Zharfan, but the Selangor forward was denied by goalkeeper's legs.
It was the wake-up call the visitors needed, and they gradually grew into the game.
Adam Swandi's 28th-minute free-kick from deep had Malaysia goalkeeper Amierul Hakmi concerned, before Joshua Bernard Pereira drilled an effort wide.
But Malaysia were still threatening going forward and, just seconds after the break, Safawi immediately drew a good save out of Zharfan from six metres out.
The pressure finally told in the 52nd minute, when a defensive mix-up gifted Malaysia their second.
From a corner, Zharfan and defender Rusyaidi Salime both went for the same ball under no pressure, allowing Syafiq to pounce with the goalkeeper in no-man's land.
The Singapore Under-21s continued to offer little in attack and Tardy showed his frustration in the dug-out as a promising move came to nothing when his team passed backwards.
Singapore had a chance to pull one back with 13 minutes left on the clock when Hazim Faiz found substitute Amir Zalani in the box, but the latter could only shoot straight at Amierul.
The game was put to bed seven minutes later when Syamie slotted home off Farhan Roslan's cross following a swift counter-attack.
Malaysia coach Frank Bernhardt was not entirely pleased with his side's performance, as he contemplated a final clash with Thailand tomorrow.
"If we keep playing like how we did in the first 20 minutes, I'm not scared, but Singapore also had good chances where we were shaky in defence," he said.
"If we can fix some small issues, then we have a good chance to win the tournament."
Tardy said: "Malaysia had good players, but the trouble came from my team.
"I don't know if they are tired, and we have players recovering from injuries, but no excuses - we didn't play good football.
"In Iran (in March), we had good organisation despite losing twice. I'm not happy with what we showed today because we must score a minimum of one goal."
Singapore will meet Vietnam tomorrow in the play-off for third, after the latter lost 2-0 to the Thais.
- MALAYSIA: Amierul Hakmi Awang, Muhd Arif Farhann, Mohd Faris Shah Rosli, Mohd Adib Zainuddin, Muhd Syazwan Andik, Ahmad Khairul Anuar, Muhd Shahrul Hakim, Nur Syamie Iszuan, Adam Nor Azlin (Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad 46), Muhammad Safawi Rasid (Mohammad Farhan Roslan 59), Muhd Jafri Firdaus (Muhd Arif Anwar 65).
- SINGAPORE:Zharfan Rohaizad, Rusyaidi Salime (Amir Zalani 60), Amirul Adli, Shahrin Saberin, Dhukilan Jeevamani, Muhaimin Suhaimi, Joshua Bernard Pereira, Ammirul Emmran (Gareth Low 78), Adam Swandi (Amiruldin Asraf 71), Hami Syahin, Hazim Faiz.