U-22s lose 5-0 to China, but Bok stays upbeat
AFC U-23 C'SHIP QUALIFIER
SINGAPORE U-22 0
CHINA U-22 5
(Li Yuanyi 2, Feng Gang 39, Xu Xin 58-pen, Zhang Yifeng 66, Wu Xinghan 79)
We gave them a good fight.
Coach Richard Bok insisted that the national Under-22 boys could walk off the field at the Laos National Stadium in Vientiane last night with their heads held high, despite being hit by five by their China counterparts.
The Singapore youngsters showed in flashes that they were able to trouble their opponents but the truth was that Fu Bo's China machine hardly got out of first gear in the Group J qualifier of the AFC Under-23 Championship.
With Laos beating Mongolia 7-0 in the other group fixture, Singapore's hopes of finishing second in the group dwindled further.
Their chances of qualifying for next year's Finals in Qatar as one of five best second-placed teams from the 10-group qualifiers now depend largely on their final group game against Mongolia tomorrow.
"We'll know what our chances are only after all the games are over tomorrow. We have no choice now - we have to play attacking football and beat Mongolia (tomorrow) and see what happens in the Laos-China match," Bok told The New Paper in a phone interview from Vientiane.
Singapore must beat Mongolia by a huge margin and hope that China do the same to the hosts.
While he was disappointed with the last night's loss, Bok saw some positives.
"I expected (to concede) fewer goals, but there is no shame in this defeat, we gave them a good fight," he added. "The Chinese dominated possession, but we did not sit back. We attacked whenever we got the chance and actually created several clear-cut chances."
Few gave the Singapore side any chance against China, but the team did themselves no favours either.
Goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad, who started in place of the injured Zulfairuuz Rudy, drifted wide of his goal just over a minute into the match, presenting a gaping goal for Li Yuanyi to slot home.
That opened the floodgates for China, who added four more goals through Feng Gang (39th), Xu Xin (58th-penalty), Zhang Yifeng (66th) and Wu Xinghan (79th).
Bok's boys did created four clear chances - three of them one-on-ones against China goalkeeper Zhang Yinuo - but the finishing was left to be desired.
Taufik Suparno spurned two of them and skipper Iqbal Hussein blasted his shot against the body of the goalkeeper, who needed treatment after the incident.
Bok will not have Iqbal for the match against Mongolia. The captain is suspended after picking up his second yellow card for reacting to what he believed was an elbow by Xu.
"He has been our most effective attacking player in the last two games, but his suspension means I have to change the way we play, maybe I'll start with two strikers instead," said Bok.
"We haven't scored a goal yet, but we have created chances. Mongolia are a physical team and it's not going to be easy.
"We must win and see what happens from there."