Coach Aide satisfied as final countdown to SEA Games begins
COURTS YOUNG LIONS 1
(Adam Swandi 75)
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM II 3
(Shafiq Shaharudin 43, Nicolas Delmonte pen-54, Aznie Taib 70)
Made up of most of the Singapore Under-23 players who are expected to feature in this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, the Courts Young Lions will be under the spotlight more than ever before when the 2015 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season kicks off in March.
The target is a first football gold at the SEA Games, which will be held on home soil in June, and Aide Iskandar's men started this year's countdown last night in a pre-season friendly with Johor Darul Ta'zim II - who play in Malaysia's second-tier.
The Singapore side lost 3-1, but coach Aide Iskandar wasn't too bothered by the result.
He fielded an experimental line-up at the Jalan Besar Stadium, handing starts to new boy Adam Swandi and striker Amy Recha, and Aide felt that his charges gave a good account of themselves.
"We played a very good game overall, but what we lacked was, of course, experience," said the 39-year-old former Singapore defender.
"But that will come gradually when the new season starts. The boys played very well tonight, there were some good passages of play, especially in attack. But ultimately, this game, and the next friendly against Pahang, will be good preparation for the boys ahead of the SEA Games."
Adam's performance would have brought a smile to fans of Singapore football.
The 18-year-old, who was touted as a potential star in the making at the Lion City Cup in 2011 and 2012, has been struggling to progress after an 18-month stint with French club FC Metz.
The skilful forward scored his first senior goal yesterday and it was an exciting strike, dribbling past two defenders before slotting home.
Speaking after the game, Adam said: "It feels great to finally score, and it's against an experienced team like Johor.
"So, it really boosts my confidence not only for the upcoming season, but also for the SEA Games."
It could be an exciting few months ahead for the Young Lions, as the battle heats up for places in the U-23 team that will do battle for the coveted SEA Games gold.
Pointing out that each first-team spot is up for grabs, Aide explained: "Nobody is guaranteed a starting berth in this team. It's still early days, and I'm still experimenting with certain players, like Adam, who I have asked to fill in at various positions in matches and in training.
"When the boys get settled, it will be all good when the SEA Games comes around."