Singapore U-22s fall to Myanmar U-22s
National U-22 side's hopes of qualifying for AFC U-23 Asian Cup in tatters after loss to Myanmar
|MYANMAR U-22||SINGAPORE U-22|
|(Irfan Fandi 60-og, Hlaing Bo Bo 93)|
The Singapore Under-22 team's hopes of reaching the AFC U-23 Asian Cup tournament next year were dealt a huge blow after Richard Tardy's charges fell to a 2-0 defeat by hosts Myanmar in their opening Group F qualifier in Yangon yesterday.
The result means that barring an improbable victory over Australia tomorrow, Singapore are all but out of the running to qualify for the U-23 Asian Cup Finals in China.
There are 10 qualifying groups, with group winners and six best-placed runners-up earning passage to next year's tournament.
Tardy, who will lead his squad at next month's SEA Games, told The New Paper in a phone interview: "It was difficult, but the team tried to do their best.
"They fought hard physically but, technically, we did not keep the ball well enough. The pitch was not good and we faced a good team in Myanmar.
"Things could have been different if we had scored from one or two good chances we had, and they finished us on the counter-attack."
But the Frenchman insisted all hope was not lost yet.
"If we repeat the same fighting spirit we showed tonight, we can do something on Friday," he said. "We must prepare for Australia and rebuild our players' confidence for the next game."
A torrential downpour meant last night's game kicked off on a sodden pitch which affected play.
Despite the poor conditions, Myanmar, whose starting XI featured five players who featured at the 2015 U-20 World Cup, managed to carve out good chances early on.
Striker Aung Thu cut inside two Singapore defenders but saw his shot pushed away by goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad in the ninth minute.
Two minutes later, Aung Kaung Mann charged to the byeline and cut the ball back into the danger area, but a puddle fortuitously stopped the ball before it reached Aung Thu, with the goal gaping.
Tardy's charges managed to weather the early threat, and came out in the second half looking more purposeful.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, striker Ikhsan Fandi had three shots at goal, the best of which was a stinging effort from 25 metres which Myanmar goalkeeper Phone Thitsar Min did well to palm clear.
But they were pegged back when Myanmar took the lead in the 60th minute.
The excellent Aung Thu charged forward past two Singapore shirts, and a slick one-two saw him though on goal.
The 20-year-old saw his chip parried by Zharfan and, as the ball bobbled towards goal, Singapore defender Irfan Fandi hooked the ball into his own goal as he attempted to clear it to safety.
Worse was to come seven minutes later, when Zharfan shoved Kaung Mann to the ground after a scramble in the penalty box - referee Khamis Al-Kawari from Qatar flashed the red card to both players for their troubles.
Myanmar midfielder Hlaing Bo Bo sealed the win in injury time.
The result should worry Tardy as Myanmar are in Group A with Singapore at next month's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Nine days ago, they were beaten 2-0 by Malaysia, another team in Group A. The other teams in the group are Cambodia and Brunei.
Tardy said: "I don't want to talk about the SEA Games, because right now, we have to focus on this competition.
"Also, the SEA Games will be a different tournament - for one, we will be playing in Malaysia, not Myanmar.
"We lost today, but we can show a different spirit in the second game, like how we did in friendlies against India (winning 1-0 after losing 1-0 three days earlier) recently."