Tardy wants more bite
Under-21 coach pleased with gutsy display but says there's room for improvement
|SINGAPORE U-21||IRAN U-21|
|Mehdi Mehdikhani 31|
They showed plenty of guts, but claimed no glory in the end.
The Singapore Under-21 football team lost 1-0 to their Iranian counterparts in the final of the inaugural FAS Under-21 International Challenge Cup at Bishan Stadium last night.
Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives the team could take away from their performance, and the majority of the 2,000 fans would hardly disagree.
For one, they were not outplayed.
Against a nation whose senior team are ranked No. 1 in Asia, Richard Tardy's charges held their own and even gave the visitors a couple of scares.
But a solitary goal by Mehdi Mehdikhani in the 31st minute put paid to the young Lions' hopes of pulling off an upset against a team they had lost twice to in two friendly matches in Teheran in March (0-1 and 0-2).
Even Iran coach Amirhossein Peiravani saw the marked improvement in the Singapore side.
"Singapore are a better team than the one we played three months ago," said the coach, whose team were made up of mostly Under-19 players.
"They had a very, very good transition from defence to attack, especially in counter-attacks.
"They also played very good football on the ground... But they had a little problem physically and mentally."
Indeed, the local boys started strongly but faded as the second half wore on and they failed to carve out clear chances.
Striker Amiruldin Asraf came within centimetres of opening the scoring after just nine minutes when his superb effort from 20 metres looked destined for the top corner, only for Iran goalkeeper Nima Mirzazad to pull off a finger-tip save at full stretch.
Iran then had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 18th minute when Singapore skipper Shahrin Saberin played a weak backpass intended for his goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad but it went straight into Reza Karamollachaab's path. The Iran striker's effort was deflected over by Zharfan.
There was no denying the Middle East side in the 31st minute when the Singapore defence played themselves into trouble, allowing Mehdikhani to dribble across the box before firing home a low shot past Zharfan.
In the second half, Iran had a number of good chances to put the game to bed, but were foiled by poor finishing and, on one occasion, the woodwork.
Singapore's best chance of an equaliser came in the 80th minute, when the ball was played into Amiruldin in the box.
But the striker could not get a shot away, and instead set up teammate Adam Swandi, whose effort was blocked by an Iranian defender.
Post-game, an exhausted Adam said: "I felt the team performance was quite good.
"It was our spirit that gave us a chance. At the start of the game, we had some chances, but luck wasn't on our side."
Added captain Shahrin: "Tonight, everyone was hungrier than in Teheran.
"Maybe it is because those games were just friendlies, and our mindset then was just to test ourselves against one of the top teams in Asia.
"But now, we know we can compete against the likes of Iran... the most important thing is to get our mentality right."
Singapore coach Tardy agreed with Peiravani's assessment that his team played much better than three months ago, but said they could still do more.
"Yes, especially with the fighting spirit of the players," said the Frenchman. "In the first half, we played well, but again conceded a stupid goal.
"We played a good game but we missed a few things, such as (executing) technical ability under pressure, but what we can keep is the spirit of the boys.
"Everyone showed they wanted to prove something, that they are proud to play this kind of game for the country.
"They wanted to finish by winning but unfortunately we didn't, so the players are disappointed."
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