REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Singapore Under-22 football team coach Richard Tardy said that it was a “physical” problem that led to his side’s demise against Malaysia’s U-22 team on Wednesday (16 August) night at the Shah Alam Stadium.
The Young Lions had led 1-0 in the game going into the half-time break, but lost the game 1-2 after Malaysia scored twice within a five-minute spell midway through the second half. The defeat, together with Monday’s loss to Myanmar, means that Singapore are staring at yet another early elimination from the SEA Games.
Once again, Singapore showed some promise in the game. Against Myanmar, they dominated early in the second half but could not score. Against Malaysia, the Young Lions soaked up the early pressure well before stunning them with a goal before half-time, but could not hold on in the second-half.
Having blamed individual mistakes and poor concentration levels for the defeat by Myanmar, Tardy said that Singapore were not able to match Malaysia physically for a 10-minute spell – which led to the loss, although he emphasised later on that he was not making excuses.
“In the first half, our organisation was good and we managed to control Malaysia. We had good orientation; we created difficult problems for them. We knew how to play Malaysia and we came up with a plan,” Tardy told the media at the post-match press conference.
“But after one hour, the problems started physically and in this kind of game at this level, it will be difficult against a good team like Malaysia, who have some good players.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the same in the second half as we did in the first.”
This notion was reiterated by defender Irfan Fandi, who said that some of the players suffered from “fatigue”, and that’s when “everything went wrong.”
“That’s when they scored… the players were just tired,” Irfan said.
Irfan’s partner at the back, Amirul Adli, felt that it was a case of the Singapore players lacking focus once again, this time because of the aggression showed by the Malaysian side.
“Malaysia pushed us harder so I think we were not aggressive enough to counter their attack,” Adli said.
“I think in a way, we need to be more focused. As we are being attacked by them more aggressively, we have to be more mature, more focused to handle the situation and, in terms of that, we let our guard down.”
When asked if the two defeats were a clear indication that Singapore are no longer at the level of their Asean neighbours, Tardy refuted the suggestion.
Pointing out that Myanmar’s team had gone to the U-20 World Cup a couple of years ago and that Malaysia had qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championships, Tardy said it would be unfair to compare the teams’ progress.
Citing the team’s youth – with the players’ average age being 20.2 years – Tardy said that it would be “difficult” for his team to compete in such a competition, especially given their schedule.
“You know, we had no easy games at the beginning,” Tardy pointed out. “It’s very difficult in this kind of competition. Against Malaysia, it was a very dramatic 10 minutes when they changed the score… only during the 10 minutes we had something bad.
“They (Malaysia) were lucky… the second goal was through our mistake.”
For now, it is back to the drawing board. Tardy said that the team has only a 5 per cent of chance to qualifying for the next round, and that they now have to beat Laos and Brunei.
“We are the national team of Singapore, we cannot resign,” Tardy stated.
Added Adli, “I think, overall, we handled the pressure well… but at the end of the day it’s up to us to deliver but we didn’t deliver. We will just have to work hard and improve in the future.”