YANGON: Singapore's chances of qualifying for the AFC U-23 championships were dealt a heavy blow on Wednesday (Jul 19) after they lost 2-0 in their opening fixture to Myanmar.
In a match played on poor pitch conditions at the Thuwana stadium in Yangon, the Lions started the game with key players Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi as well as Adam Swandi all in the starting line-up.
The team, which will be representing Singapore at the SEA Games in August, went into the fixture on the back of a morale boosting 1-0 victory over India last week.
However against Myanmar, they struggled to keep possession of the ball and paid the price after a scoreless first half.
Myanmar, dubbed the White Angels, kicked into gear in the second period when they stringed a series of scintillating passes in Singapore's half to put Aung Thu through on goal on the hour mark.
The striker, who plays for local club Yadanarbon, made no mistake and struck the ball hard and low into the far post past goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad.
While striving for an equaliser, the Singapore team coached by Frenchman Richard Tardy took risks and left spaces at the back for their opponents to exploit.
Things got worse for the Lions in injury time when midfielder Hlaing Bo Bo found himself unmarked in the penalty box. He headed a superb cross from the left wing into the net.
The defeat leaves Singapore with a mountain to climb to qualify for the AFC U-23 championships next year. They will have to clinch at least a victory and a draw over their two remaining fixtures against Australia and Brunei to have any realistic chance of qualifying from the group.
Tardy's men will also have to face Myanmar again in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next month where Singapore are eyeing a spot in the semi-finals.