COURTS YOUNG LIONS 1
(Afiq Yunos 73)
HARIMAU MUDA B 2
(Syafwan Syahlan 2, Hanif Dzahir 46)
SINGAPORE - Time is running out for the Courts Young Lions.
With four games remaining before the regular season ends, the Singapore Under-23 side knew their best chance to register a first win was against their U-23 counterparts from Malaysia.
But, at their home ground at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night and in front of 1,523 fans, Aide Iskandar's young charges crashed to a 2-1 defeat by Harimau Muda B.
It was the team's 15th defeat of the season in 18 matches.
Perhaps the Young Lions were too desperate, spurning a hatful of chances across 90 minutes and demonstrating a lack of composure in front of goal.
They were also desperately unlucky.
A goal two minutes from kick-off and another seconds after the restart gave the Singapore side a mountain to climb, even as they battled against 10 men.
Harimau Muda top scorer Ridzuan Abdunloh was given his marching orders for pushing Al-Qaasimy Rahman off the ball in the 38th minute.
With league leaders Tampines Rovers up next, the Young Lions are facing the increasingly likely prospect of finishing the season without a single victory.
Asked by The New Paper if 22 games without a win would spell failure for him, the 38-year-old coach nodded his head. "Yes, if we finished the season without a win, it would be," he said.
"But I'm not afraid of failures. We have to turn failures into positives. We still have points to pick up from here on and we have to keep working hard for it.
"We must believe we can win games and eventually we will get it right. Tonight, things just did not work in our favour."
The former national captain was referring to his side's dismal luck on Thursday night.
The Young Lions conceded after just two minutes when a tame, mis-hit freekick from Syafwan Syahlan eluded everyone, including a bewildered Syazwan Buhari in goal.
The home side bounded back strongly, dominating the first half, but strikers Iqbal Hussain and Sherif El-Masri simply could not get their touch right in the box.
Both players were presented with clear chances, but were foiled by Harimau Muda goalkeeper Hafizul Hakim.
In the 38th minute, it looked as if the heavens were smiling on Aide and his boys when Ridzuan was dismissed, but the Malaysians grew more determined playing a man down.
When Hanif Dzahir, tireless in midfield for the Malaysians, scored seconds into the second half, the Young Lions looked rattled.
Afiq Yunos gave his side hope with a looping header in the 73rd minute, but when Sahil Suhaimi, a new inclusion in the national side, missed a clear-cut chance to equalise in the 80th minute, the Young Lions players sank to their knees.
They knew they had been beaten.
Harimau Muda coach Razip Ismail, delighted with his side's eighth win of the season which keeps them within touching distance of a top-six finish, spoke about the difference between the two sides at the post-match press conference.
"Maybe the difference is we have players who can score," he said.
"The Young Lions are actually a good side. It's matter of time before they win a game. But they lack that composure in front of goal."
Aide, however, did not agree with Razip's assessment.
"The difference is he has had his team for three years. I have had mine for just six months," Aide said.
"But yes, in football, if you don't score, you can't win. At the end of the day, I take full responsibility for my team because I am the head coach."
TNP Man of the Match: Hanif Dzahir
YOUNG LIONS: Syazwan Buhari, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Afiq Yunos, M Anumanthan, Sahil Suhaimi, Nur Na'iim Ishak (Afiq Noor 50), Nur Ridho (Fareez Farhan 32), Raihan Rahman, Hanafi Ghazali, Sherif El-Masri, Iqbal Hussain (Stanely Ng 69)
HARIMAU MUDA: Hafizul Hakim, Asri Mardzuki, Nashriq Yahya, Ridzuan Abdunloh, Syawal Nordin (Syafiq Shalihin 81), Hanif Dzahir, Akhir Bahari (Yazid Zaini 93), Syazwan Tajudin, Iskandar Hanapiah, Faizat Ghazli, Syafwan Syahlan (Akmal Ishak 66).
Must win for Warriors
They are desperate to finish in the top six in the 2013 Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League, and that means the Warriors FC can ill-afford anything less than three points when they face Home United in the Uniformed Derby at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Friday night.
Alex Weaver's side are in 10th place on 20 points, seven behind sixth-placed Home.
They have not lost to their fierce rivals in their last five encounters - three in the league and twice in the 2012 Singapore Cup.
However, the Warriors will be without the services of 2011 Golden Boot winner Mislav Karoglan, who is suspended after collecting his fourth caution of the season in their draw against the Courts Young Lions in the previous game.
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