SEA Games: Young lions need much more

SEA Games: Young lions need much more
Singapore defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi (right) with teammate Anumanthan Kumar after scoring in the 1-0 win over the Philippines at the Singapore's opening match of the SEA Games’ football competition at Jalan Besar Stadium on 1 June 2015.

Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar was a picture of calm at the post-match press conference last night.

After answering the final question, he took a wefie with team captain Al- Qaasimy Rahman, who was seated next to him, much to the amusement of the room.

His young side had just opened their South-east Asia (SEA) Games campaign with a 1-0 win over their Philippine counterparts in a Group A clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.

A winning start it might have been, but many among the sellout crowd of 6,500 would have felt a team gunning to beat quality sides like Thailand, Vietnam and the rest to win gold would have need to play much better.

Against a Philippines side comprising six university students in the first 11, the Young Lions missed a hatful of chances, with star striker Sahil Suhaimi guilty of spurning two gilt-edged opportunities in the second half.

SOLE SUCCESS

In the end, it took a glancing header by defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi just before half-time to secure victory.

Aide knew what was coming.

Why couldn't his side score more? What happened to Sahil and Faris Ramli - heroes a fortnight ago in the Malaysian FA Cup final, but utterly off the mark for 90 minutes last night?

When The New Paper asked the 40-year-old coach how much his team had to improve in order to make the semi-finals, he replied: "The most important thing was that we got that first victory out of the way.

"Some players were nervous, we did create chances to increase our lead, but we didn't take them.

"In a way, it's good, because now the boys will be motivated to work harder going forward.

"If we had won big, we might get complacent."

In his heart, Aide must have wished his young charges had scored three of four goals.

He shook his head on the sidelines each time the Young Lions spurned a chance, especially in the second half, when the Philippines defended mostly with three at the back.

POOR DECISIONS

Though the visitors tried to play a slick pass-and-move game, they were naive when it came to the basics - committing needless fouls all over the pitch and giving away possession cheaply in midfield.

Indonesia, the other top dogs in Group A might fancy a big win over the Philippines when the two sides meet.

Aide, however, wasn't concerned, even about goal difference.

"I don't think the Philippines will be hammered," he said.

"There are no easy games - Thailand only won 1-0 over Timor Leste (in a Group B match last night). So on paper, everyone can say this and that, but it's not that easy."

The Young Lions face Myanmar in their second group match on Thursday, and Aide's concern heading into the game is fatigue. He could have playmaker Shahfiq Ghani back for that clash, though.

The 23-year-old international missed last night's game due to a knee injury, which forced Aide into a last-minute reshuffle.

He gambled on Shamil Sharif and it didn't pay off. The midfielder was replaced by the lively Irfan Fandi after just 35 minutes.

"You all know me. I like to keep my cards close," Aide said.

"Some key players didn't play (last night) and I might field a different team against Myanmar."

GROUP A

SINGAPORE U-23 1

(Sheikh Abdul Hadi 45)

PHILIPPINES U-23 0

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 2, 2015.
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