YANGON: Singapore's hopes of qualifying for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 championships for the first time were dashed emphatically on Friday (Jul 21) after the team was trounced 7-0 by Australia.
In a one-sided affair played on a waterlogged pitch at the Thuwana stadium in Yangon, the Lions were outplayed throughout by their bigger opponents.
The team, which will be representing Singapore at the SEA Games in August, went into the fixture on the back of a 2-0 defeat to hosts Myanmar in their opening qualifier on Wednesday, while their opponents Australia were boosted by a hard fought 2-0 win against Brunei.
The Lions found themselves 4-0 down by half-time. A double from George Blackwood as well as goals from Stefan Mauk and Milislav Popovic gave Singapore a mountain to climb after 45 minutes of play.
The score was well-deserved as Singapore struggled to string three passes together against their opponents who were pressing high up the field. Attacking players Hanafi Akhbar and Ikhsan Fandi struggled to impose themselves on proceedings as they rarely received the ball.
Looking dejected and demoralised, the Lions could not find any rhythm offensively and Australia struck again on the hour mark.
Winger Trent Buhagiar took advantage of shoddy defending by left back Syahrul Sazali to cut back to Popovic who scored his second of the night.
Buhagiar was causing all sorts of problems for the Singapore defence, who were caught off guard by his mazing run on 67 minutes when captain Shahrin Saberin shoved Buhagiar in the penalty box.
Devante Clut converted the resulting penalty confidently in the top corner.
Winger Jaushua Sotirio put the icing on the cake for Australia when he found space in the box and shot low past Singapore goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan.
Speaking to Myanmar media after the game, Lions winger Muhaimin Suhaimi said: "We'd like to apologise to the fans if the result didn't meet their expectations. We certainly tried our best but our tactics seemed off in this match.
"But we give credit to the coach as it was not easy to set up the team against a big side like Australia," he added.
The defeat leaves Singapore rooted to the bottom of Group F with one more game to play.
Singapore will play Brunei on Sunday in their final group fixture for the qualifiers before heading to Kuala Lumpur for next month's SEA Games.
The Lions are hunting for their first SEA Games medal since 2013, when a Hariss Harun brace led Singapore to a 2-1 win over Malaysia to clinch bronze.