SEA Games 2023: Young Lions prove no match for defending champs Vietnam

Hard as they try, but Singapore were comfortably defeated 1-3 and hopes of advancing into semi-finals are virtually gone

Singapore defender Nur Adam in action at the 2023 SEA Games football competition. (PHOTO: SNOC/Eng Chin An)
Singapore defender Nur Adam in action at the 2023 SEA Games football competition. (PHOTO: SNOC/Eng Chin An)

SINGAPORE — Singapore's hopes of advancing past the group stage of the SEA Games competition for the first time since 2013 have virtually been extinguished, following a second consecutive defeat on Wednesday (3 May).

A 1-3 loss to defending champions Vietnam at Prince Stadium in Phnom Penh meant that even if the Young Lions win their remaining two Group B matches against Laos and Malaysia, they would have to rely on results from others to have any chance of advancing to the semi-finals.

Like their opening 1-3 defeat by Thailand on Sunday, the Singapore players ran their hearts out and produced moments of slick football. But they were no match of one of the powerhouse nations of the region, who rarely looked like breaking a sweat in subduing the Young Lions.

From the opening whistle, the Vietnamese swarmed the Singapore defence with incisive passing, and goalkeeper Aizil Yazid was busy early on with several saves to keep the opponents at bay.

Just when it seemed as if the Young Lions were beginning to find their footing and frustrate their Vietnamese rivals, a moment of sloppiness cost them in the 35th minute.

Midfield Jared Gallagher couldn't control a loose ball properly, and he was immediately dispossessed by Le Van Do, who sped up the field, evading several defenders before laying the ball up for Nguyen Van Tung to slam home.

Own goals in the second half

Spurred by the breakthrough, Vietnam poured forward seeking more goals, and were rewarded again two minutes before half-time.

Again it was down to a moment of unfortunate sloppiness, as the Singapore defence failed to clear a loose ball in their own penalty area, and Nguyen Thai Son pounced with a first-time shot that took a wicked deflection off Bill Mamadou into the net.

Commendably, Singapore refused to let their heads hang, as they tried to recover from the two-goal deficit. Midfielder Elijah Lim came closest to scoring early on in the second half, after a superb cross by Ilhan Noor, but his point-blank attempt went over the crossbar.

Vietnam continued to probe the Singapore defence, but were content to sit back and conserve their energy for upcoming matches. However, they were gifted a third goal, when the luckless Ilhan deflected a dangerous cross by Khuat Van Khang from the right flank into Aizil's goal in the 79th minute.

The Young Lions finally got their goal in stoppage time, albeit in comical fashion as Vietnam defender Vu Tien Long deflected an innocuous cross by Syahadat Masnawi which looped into goal.

Singapore will next play Laos on Saturday, before finishing their group matches against Malaysia on 11 May.

In the women's football competition, Singapore were beaten 0-4 by Thailand in their opening match. The Lionesses will next play Laos on Friday.

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