What a difference three days can make.
After an insipid performance that resulted in a 1-0 defeat to India’s Under-23 team on Sunday, the Singapore side turned it around completely to defeat the same opponents by the same scoreline at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Wednesday (12 July).
The manner in which it was achieved was certainly impressive.
The much-changed Young Lions team, which saw just four players retained from the first game, dominated from start to finish. They created 12 shots compared to just five for the Indians, and more importantly, they had six shots of target, after recording just one in the entire game on Sunday.
Singapore’s head coach Richard Tardy said it was “ a relief” to finally win a game.
“This win is very important for the confidence. All the players put on a good performance today. They showed they have the quality to compete, and this win is good for the team,” Tardy added.
The Young Lions certainly showed they were going to compete right from the start.
Within the opening 20 minutes of the game, both Haiqal Pashia and Ikhsan Fandi tested India goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, something they hardly did in the first game.
But for all of the front four’s brilliance, it was Hami Syahin who was running the show in midfield, providing the impetus that was sorely lacking from the first game.
That gave both Ikhsan and Hanafi Akbar plenty of ammunition, although they were unlucky not to have opened the scoring in the first half with the chances they had.
They finally did so in the 52nd minute from the spot. Left-back Shahrul Sazali, who had come on at the half-time break, was tripped when he made an overlapping run into the box, and the penalty was converted by Ikhsan, who slammed it into the net, off the crossbar, with a ferocious shot.
It could have been 2-0 just six minutes later, but Illyas Lee’s acrobatic effort from outside the box landed agonisingly wide.
India had their best effort of the game 14 minutes from time after Manvir Singh crafted something out of nothing, but his shot was dealt with superbly by goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan.
The Young Lions were able to hold on eventually, and their celebrations at the end of the game showed just how much it meant to them.
Coach takes issue with media reports
While Tardy expressed his delight at the win, he took issues with the media over how reports were written after the first game on Sunday.
“Many people talk bad about this team, but I feel that the job of the media, while you need to give the truth, is to sometimes support the young players,” Tardy said politely.
“The players, they don’t like to lose so much too. Today, you can see the difference. Sometime when I read the media, I feel that we are always looking for results, but remmmeber, we are young, you need to help them.
“We must help these young generation. More than 50 per cent of the team can play in the next SEA Games in 2019… we have potential,” he said.
When asked what pleased him the most over the two games, Tardy said it was how the players were able to change their mindset.
“The key difference here is that we worked very hard during the two days of break. We watched video and I told the players what was not good, and we organised ourselves nicely,” Tardy said.
“Today, you saw when we lost the ball, immediately we fought to win the ball. The mentality was there today.
“I want them to take this mentality with them… this is what we need.”