LionsXII lose in Myanmar again after defensive lapses

Wasteful in front of goal the last time out, the LionsXII paid for some careless defending yesterday as they were beaten 2-1 by the Myanmar national football team.

Coach Fandi Ahmad was left rueing two defensive mistakes that resulted in goals, which meant that his side's week-long training tour of Yangon ended in two friendly defeats following Wednesday's 0-1 loss to Nay Pyi Taw FC.

"I'm happy with the overall performance of the boys," the former national captain said.

"We were disciplined and compact but lapses in concentration cost us the two goals."

Myanmar midfielder Nay Lin Tun grabbed the winner four minutes from time, after LionsXII winger Gabriel Quak had cancelled out Kyaw Ko Ko's opener for the hosts.

Coming up against a side led by former Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic, Fandi put out his strongest available XI with international regulars Safuwan Baharudin, Izwan Mahbud and Khairul Amri all starting.

This was a contrast to Wednesday's loss, in which the 51-year-old gave a number of fringe players a run out.

But as they did against Nay Pyi Taw, the LionsXII found themselves on the back foot thanks to midfielder Kyaw Ko Ko's deflected effort off Afiq Yunos in the 34th minute.

Quak grabbed an equaliser for the visitors just two minutes later, as he dribbled past two defenders before placing his shot in the bottom corner.

However, another defensive lapse allowed Nay Lin Tun to latch onto a high through ball and head home.

Result aside, the hosts' performance gave an indication of how far the world's 174th-ranked side have come since the 64-year-old Avramovic took charge in February.

And it will no doubt serve as a warning to South-east Asia's top sides ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup later this year, which holders Singapore and Vietnam will co-host.

"Tactically, they have become better," Fandi said of the Myanmar side. "They are a more disciplined unit and will surely improve." But Fandi also reserved praise for two men who are knocking hard on the first-team door.

"Players like Zulfahmi (Arifin) and Gabriel stepped up this week," he said.

"We are in good shape for the last leg of the MSL (Malaysian Super League)."

The LionsXII will return home today and be back in MSL action on May 17, when they travel to fourth-placed Terengganu.

The Singapore defending champions are in sixth place with 21 points, seven behind league leaders Pahang with eight matches remaining.

This article was published on May 3 in The Straits Times.

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