After conceding two goals in the opening 10 minutes, Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar feared the worst.
But there was to be no repeat of the 8-1 mauling suffered at the hands of the Japan Olympic Team at the Jalan Besar Stadium in February, because this time, his charges settled down and made a game of it.
The Young Lions eventually lost 2-1 to Japanese fourth division side Azul Claro Numazu in the first friendly match of their Japan tour in Gotemba yesterday.
The team are currently on a week-long training stint in Japan to prepare for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be held from June 5 to 16.
In total, Aide used 24 of the 25 players in the squad, opting to rest only midfielder Pravin Guanasagaran, who is nursing an injury.
"We were experimenting to see what works best for us and we had a lot of positives in the second half," said Aide.
"We let in two early goals because we did not settle in quickly. But we recovered after that... We could have scored a couple more goals in the second half.
"We came here with the objective to provide equal opportunity and playing time for every player to impress the coaching staff. "I have a better idea of what needs to be done for the next friendly game (tomorrow)."
The Young Lions will face Shizuoka Sangyo University before they return home on Sunday.
After the disastrous start, the Under-23s found their rhythm after 20 minutes and pulled a goal back in the 41st minute through Irfan Fandi, who rose above his marker to head home Ho Wai Loon's cross.
The second half was an evenly-contested affair as Aide kept rolling in the substitutions throughout the 45 minutes.
Former Singapore defender and captain Aide, 39, felt defender Ho, midfielder Adam Swandi and goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah had impressive outings.
Though he declined to reveal who will be in his first 11 for the SEA Games opener against the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium on June 1, Aide is 95 per cent decided on his best line-up.
"But we want to try out everyone, to make sure every player has a chance to show his best," said Aide, who added that striker Irfan will operate as both defender and striker during the Games.
"Irfan is a versatile player and it is important to have someone like him in the team.
"We will play him according to how our opponents play. At the last SEA Games, Safuwan (Baharudin) also played in different positions."
Singapore are in Group A, along with Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines. Group B features favourites Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Timor Leste and Brunei.
Two final tune-up games are being lined up for the team after they return from Japan, and Aide will finalise his squad of 20 two days before the opening game.
"We will be using all our matches to try out different tactics and formations, and to give every player an opportunity to prove he is deserving of a place in the final (squad of) 20.
"Right now, we are at the last stage of fine tuning and we want to win the last game to boost our morale."
Irfan is a versatile player and it is important to have someone like him in the team. We will play him according to how our opponents play.
This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.