Singapore Football

Young Lions draw with Uzbekistan U-21s

SINGAPORE U23S 1

UZBEKISTAN U21S 1

Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar reckons set-pieces will be their key weapon in their bid to win the country's first football gold at the South-east Asia Games in June.

Yesterday, the Young Lions recorded a morale-boosting result when they held the physically superior Uzbekistan Under-21s 1-1 in a friendly in Antalya, Turkey.

Not surprisingly, Singapore's goal came via a set-piece.

They took a 20th-minute lead when nippy winger Faris Ramli headed in Shahfiq Ghani's corner at the near post, before the Uzbeks equalised 14 minutes later when they finished off a defence-splitting through ball.

Shahfiq's cultured left foot had also yielded two free-kick goals at last year's Asian Games, and Aide said: "Every good team have set-piece specialists to win games and to overcome stronger or more 
compact opponents.

"So, it's good we have players like Shahfiq who can unlock stubborn defences."

The Young Lions had lost their previous two friendlies to the Spartak Moscow reserves (1-3) and Hamburg reserves (0-5).

But Aide could draw positives from an improved defensive showing last night.

"To keep a clean sheet in the second half was very encouraging, and something we can work towards for the full 90 minutes," said Aide.

"Our defence worked very hard and stood firm in the last 20 minutes, even with Uzbekistan pushing for a winner.

"The objective of this tour was to test ourselves against fast and tough opponents and, if we can keep a clean sheet against them, we should be able to hold our ground against South-east Asian opponents."

The Young Lions will take on the Yemen Under-22s in their fourth and final friendly on Sunday, before returning to Singapore on Feb 4.

- DAVID LEE