Last month's SEA Games campaign was one to forget, as the Singapore Under-23 football team were unceremoniously booted out at the group stage on home soil. And on the Courts Young Lions' return to S-League action last night, the side flattered to deceive once again.
Last night, in Juergen Raab's first match in charge of the Young Lions, a team that made up the bulk of the SEA Games squad, they were defeated 3-1 by Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
While the long-ball tactics had gone in favour of a short-passing style, Raab's men were still unable to cut out the defensive errors that litter their game.
Against Hougang last night, two incidents of poor marking cost the Young Lions dear as the Cheetahs took full advantage to score.
But Raab, 56, was still satisfied with his side's performance.
"I think we played 90 minutes of good football with good possession. We went to sleep with the two set-pieces and we paid for it," said the German, who was originally roped in last October on a one-year contract to be the SEA Games team's fitness coach.
While previous coach Aide Iskandar, who had helmed the team since 2013 and resigned in the aftermath of the Games failure, was criticised for his long-ball tactics, Raab's team rarely opted to hoof the ball against Hougang.
However, although the Young Lions enjoyed superior possession and tried to pass their way out of defence, there was little penetration as attacking moves fizzled out.
The only bright spark was forward Jordan Webb, whose pacy dribbles down the flank caused the visitors problems. Alongside team-mate and Canadian compatriot Sherif El-Masri, the duo are reportedly being considered for the Foreign Sports Talent scheme.
Hougang took the lead in the 10th minute when Argentinian midfielder Carlos Delgado's free kick found defender Delwinder Singh, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari .
The second goal and another case of poor marking came 10 minutes later, when another Delgado set piece was nodded home by Japanese defender Kunihiro Yamashita.
At the opposite end, the Young Lions spurned gilt-edged chances through Webb and Suria Prakash.
The Young Lions pulled one back in the 70th minute, when Adam Swandi skipped past Hougang defender Yuki Uchiyama with lovely footwork and curled an effort from just inside the box.
Hougang sealed victory in the 90th minute, when Fairoz Hassan broke the offside trap to run clear and round goalkeeper Syazwan to tap into an empty net.
Raab said: "We have to learn from our mistakes but we will continue to play like we did. I hope everyone has seen how we played and this will be the way to go."
The Young Lions remain bottom of the 10-team league with just four points from a win and a draw in eight games.
They trail Harimau Muda, who have a game in hand, and Hougang, who have played four games more. Both are on 10 points.
This article was first published on July 21, 2015.
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