Under-23 football: Concern over strike force

Under-23 football: Concern over strike force
Singapore U-23 striker Fareez Farhan (No. 28) attempting to put the ball past the Hougang United goalkeeper to no avail last night. The SEA Games-bound team, who had nine LionsXII players on the field, could only score once against Hougang, who finished 10th in the 12-team S-League.

Singapore Under-23s 1

Hougang United 1

It was an underwhelming performance that threw up a few question marks but national Under-23 football coach Aide Iskandar still believes his team can reach the SEA Games football final next month.

On Tuesday night, the 38-year-old tactician fielded what is virtually his strongest line-up in a friendly against Hougang United.

But even with nine LionsXII players that won the Malaysian Super League (MSL) earlier this year in his starting XII, his men could only eke out a 1-1 draw against a team that finished 10th in the 12-team S-League two weeks ago.

After the game at the Toa Payoh Stadium, which was watched by former national coach Raddy Avramovic, Aide said he is "80 per cent" sure of who will start in his 4-2-3-1 system, insisting: "The target is to get to the final. We have the quality." In goal is national team regular Izwan Mahbud. Taking the full-back roles will be the overlapping Faritz Hameed (right) and pacy Shakir Hamzah (left).

Safuwan Baharudin and Courts Young Lions player Afiq Yunos will fill central defence.

In midfield, captain Hariss Harun and Izzdin Shafiq will play in a deeper role in the middle behind Zulfahmi Arifin. Faris Ramli (left) and Nazrul Nazari (right) will occupy the wings.

Up front, Shahil Suhaimi was given his chance on Monday as first-choice Shahfiq Ghani was nursing a hamstring strain.

And the 21-year-old Courts Young Lions forward staked his claim with a goal in the 23rd minute when he slotted in Faris' low cross from the left.

However, that was as good as it got for the Under-23s, the bulk of whose starting line-up were in the Lions squad that travelled to Teheran to face Syria in an Asian Cup qualifier last week, as chances went a-begging.

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