Timely lesson for Young Lions
Defeat by Indonesia U-23s a reminder of the gulf in quality
Singapore's Under-23 football team received a timely reminder yesterday that they still have some way to go before they can match the region's best teams.
In a friendly match that Indonesia U-23 comfortably won 3-0 at the National Stadium, the hosts were made to look second-best.
Young Lions coach Fandi Ahmad acknowledged the gulf in class, highlighting the disparity in technical skills between the two sides as the crucial difference.
|(Febri Haryadi 43, Muhammad Hargianto 51, Septian David 65)|
Yet, he refused to blame his players as he believes he had seen enough fighting spirit from his players to remain hopeful.
FIRST BIG TEST
In the post-match media conference, he said: "It's a good lesson for us today and it's not easy. We need to do a lot of work. These are young players, they need to learn more.
"They still don't understand, so we need to really help them develop an understanding and, hopefully, they can learn more.
"I'm happy with their performance even though 3-0 looks like a big margin, but their passion and determination show that they tried hard."
This was Fandi's first big test since taking over the U-23 team reins from Richard Tardy last December.
While he retains his optimism despite the defeat, the proceedings on the match were worryingly one-sided.
The scoreline could have been even more embarrassing for Singapore had the visitors been more clinical in front of goal.
A poorly executed tackle by Shahrin Saberin nearly gifted Indonesia with the opening goal, but he had Young Lions goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad to thank for keeping out Ezra Walian's vicious curler.
It proved the start of a busy evening for Zharfan, who had to be called upon on several more occasions to keep out the marauding Indonesians.
But Singapore's resistance finally crumbled two minutes before the break.
Indonesia's winger Febri Haryadi skipped away from Hami Syahin before firing a sizzling shot from 20 metres out to give his side the lead.
The Young Lions, however, almost came up with an unexpected equaliser just before half-time, but Illyas Lee's header soared just inches above the crossbar.
Singapore started the second half brightly, briefly giving the home fans hopes of a fightback.
Just three minutes in, attacker Ikhsan Fandi skipped past several white shirts and released a defence-splitting ball to Syahrul Sazali, but the latter's dangerous-looking cross couldn't find a Singapore player.
The home side then went further behind three minutes later.
Muhammad Hargianto calmly found his spot from the edge of the penalty box to give his side a 2-0 cushion.
Singapore had another chance to score, in the 65th minute, when the ball fell to Akbar Shah in the penalty box, but the striker skewed his shot way off-target.
It turned out to be a costly miss, as Indonesia kept the ball in play and surged down the flank, resulting in Septian David scoring the third goal to put the outcome beyond doubt.
Fandi believes the experience will put his charges in good stead, as they prepare to face even stronger teams in the future.
He said: "If you want to be better, you have to match this level.
"The level will be higher than this when you go into other tournaments.
"The Thais are also similar to this. We played a game against Thailand and the pace was different. They're always above us, so we need to do something to make our players stronger.
"We have to play with more organisation and tactical awareness."