Merdeka tournament: No final for young Lions

THAI SELECTION 1 (Pakorn Parmpak 34)

Two games, two defeats, no goals scored. Playing without six key players, including the backbone of the LionsXII team who emerged Malaysian Super League champions two months ago, the Singapore Under-23 lost 1-0 to a Thai Selection side in a largely one-sided contest on Monday.

The result at the Stadium Darul Makmur in Kuantan meant that V Sundramoorthy's charges have no chance of playing in Saturday's final, and will instead enter the third-place play-off.

Without Singapore No. 1 Izwan Mahbud or second-choice Syazwan Buhari in goal, the young Lions, who lost 1-0 to Malaysia in their first match, were forced to field largely untested Neezam Aziz between the sticks.

In the end, it was Neezam's error which presented the Thais their winner when he was beaten at his near post by an angled effort from Pakorn Parmpak.

Without Safuwan Baharudin, Singapore hardly threatened from set-pieces. Without Hariss Harun, they were overrun in midfield.

No bite

Without Shahfiq Ghani, there was little bite in attack. Target man Khairul Nizam ran hard, but lacked support from his teammates.

Still, the second-stringers should have fared better against a Thai team comprising 16 players from second division club Nara United.

Sundram, however, refused to criticise his team. He said: "We didn't have seven national players for the match; let's give credit to those who played and tried.

"The boys gave 100 per cent in effort. Although they lost, they still put up a show."

Singapore's best chance came in the 74th minute when Raihan Rahman was given time and space just inside the penalty box. But the substitute's shot cleared the crossbar.

As the game edged closer to full-time, Pakorn kept up his impressive performance with a rasping shot that hit the bar following a swift counter-attack.

Sundram said he wasn't surprised at how well the Thais played.

"The Thai players might be from division two, but they are playing for selection to bigger clubs in the future," said the coach, who was sent off from the bench area during the last 10 minutes for complaining to the referee.

"For us, this tournament is for exposure and match fitness. How we peak in December for the SEA Games is more important."

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