Stars Faris and Sahil go missing against Philippines
Dynamic in Bukit Jalil, Faris and Sahil go missing at Jalan Besar
It was a mad final few minutes at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
Singapore went looking for another goal to add a little gloss to what was otherwise an unconvincing performance, while their Philippines opponents threw men forward to find that elusive equaliser and break the hosts' hearts.
Through all this, Faris Ramli, hailed a hero when the LionsXII made history in the Malaysian FA Cup final win just over a week ago, was sitting on his backside at the sidelines - on a stretcher - receiving a massage to his calf.
Sahil Suhaimi, whose two goals fired Fandi Ahmad's team to victory in the Cup final at Bukit Jalil, was just a few metres away from his LionsXII teammate, also sitting - on the bench, after being subbed out eight minutes earlier - seemingly suffering from cramps.
The two biggest names in Aide Iskandar's national Under-23 squad were passengers in last night's SEA Games Group A fixture against the Philippines, as Singapore eked out a 1-0 win.
FAIL TO FIRE
They were touted as the duo to inspire the Young Lions to the final, but worryingly for the hosts, they failed to fire last night.
"I can't lie, everyone can see that fatigue is running through my body," admitted Faris, after the game.
"It's been all about recovery for me, and I tried my best to deliver. But, unfortunately, within the first three minutes, I took a knock to my backside, and that effectively ended my game.
"I thought about all the people who came here to support us - and I tried to carry on.
"The team did their best to cover for me, and they deserve credit, including (defender, Sheik Abdul) Hadi, who did a brilliant job to score."
Much has been said about the management of the duo, who have shuttled between the LionsXII, Aide's SEA Games squad and the national team in last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.
Fatigue was the word most associated with the pair, and last night, it reared its ugly head.
Faris dribbled himself into corners, lost possession and virtually disappeared in the second half.
Sahil started brightly, almost finding the net in the 38th minute in an exact replica of the first of his two Bukit Jalil goals - the shot was tipped onto the post by Philippines goalkeeper Florencio Badelic Jr - then seemed to forget where the goal was.
"It's difficult to compare (this performance with the FA Cup final), they're trying their best. We have to give them credit, it's not easy," said Aide.
"Sahil tried, but unfortunately, he missed two chances. If he had scored, he'd be the hero again."
Now comes the bigger problem: Faris is not certain he can play in Singapore's next fixture against Myanmar on Thursday, as the injury to his left gluteus muscle is a major worry.
"I don't know, it's a very bad injury, but I won't stop giving my all," he said.
Singapore captain Al-Qaasimy Rahman knows just how much both Faris and Sahil can bring to the team, refusing to blame them for their performances last night.
He said: "They are an asset to the team... but today, it just didn't seem to work.
"Everyone knows that both Faris and Sahil can make the difference in our team, and I have faith in them.
"I've seen them in training sessions and games, and I know in the next few games, they can deliver."
Faris is determined to battle fatigue and injury to set things straight.
"We created a lot of chances, but we had no luck (today)," he said.
"We have to go back and reflect, but I believe that in the next game, we won't miss.
"This team is family, the boys are my brothers - I would give my life for this team.
"Even this fatigue won't stop me."