Fandi sees positives from Young Lions' first defeat
But Fandi looks at the positives after his team's third game in eight days
The Young Lions' perfect start to the Singapore Premier League (SPL) came to a halt after they were beaten 3-1 by Balestier Khalsa last night.
But as the largely Under-22 side hung their heads low at the final whistle, coach Fandi Ahmad chose to draw positives from the defeat.
|BALESTIER KHALSA||YOUNG LIONS|
Entering last night's game with a target on their backs, after two wins in their first two games of the season, Fandi believes that a significant amount of pressure has now been lifted off his charges.
The 55-year-old told The New Paper: "After three games in a week, it's not been easy for them.
"But for me, the positive part is that we can learn from these mistakes and at least now, the pressure is off the players.
"Everyone will want to beat us because we keep winning," he said with a chuckle.
Fandi felt his team were not able to play their normal game last night, though.
With Balestier capitalising on their 1.88m foreigners - New Zealand forward Keegan Linderboom and Croatian midfielder Vedran Mesec - it took a good half for the Young Lions to settle into the game.
"We didn't play to our strengths and we fell into Balestier's trap," Fandi said.
"They (Balestier just played effective football because they have their big boys up front, so they just had to keep pumping the balls hoping for throw-ins.
"That was their strategy, so we couldn't play our normal game."
Balestier striker Hazzuwan Halim had a chance to draw first blood after just 10 minutes when he lashed a shot that deflected off the left post.
Young Lions' striker Ikhsan Fandi had similar chances at goal, but found himself offside a few times.
It was not till the 39th minute that Balestier scored through a free-kick by Mesec, who sent the ball past Young Lions custodian Hairul Syirhan.
A more robust Young Lions side entered the second half ready to take on the Tigers, but found themselves conceding another goal through Linderboom's strike, which was initially saved by Hairul.
The Young Lions halved the deficit six minutes later when a beautiful cross from Young Lions' midfielder Hami Syahin missed Ikhsan's header but found defender Prakash Raj, who wasted no time sending the ball home.
But Balestier restored their two-goal cushion in the 75th minute through Sheikh Abdul Hadi to seal their first win of the season.
Beaming after the game, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic was pleased with his side's performance. The 52-year-old said: Coming into this game, it was very tough because we lost two games and Young Lions won two games.
"They came with a lot of confidence, but our boys did a very good job. It's good to see that we're scoring more goals too, so hopefully, we'll continue to do that."
The Young Lions will now be preparing for the Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, which starts from April 25 in Brunei.
Fandi is hoping that his team will prove themselves worthy of selection for August's Asian Games. He said. "Hopefully, we can go there with fresh legs to try and spring a surprise there."
Meanwhile, in an AFC Cup game, Home United went one step closer to the zonal semi-finals after beating Myanmar's Shan United 3-2 at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.