MANILA: After Singapore’s 2-0 loss to Indonesia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Thursday (Nov 28) night, coach Fandi Ahmad’s assessment of their opponents was a frank one - they were simply better.
“Indonesia is better than us, that’s a fact. As a coach, I know sooner or later they might break us,” he said at a post-match press conference.
“Tactically, we were very sound in the first half till nearly the 70th minute. I think they broke us through individual brilliance, individual technical abilities,” he said.
”Hats off to Indonesia, I think they are one of the toughest teams in our group. For us, it will be a mountain to climb because we have to win the last few games, (but) we never give up.”
The defeat means Fandi Ahmad’s Singapore team join Brunei and Laos as the three teams in their group without a win at this year's SEA Games so far.
After either side failed to establish themselves in the first 10 minutes, it was Singapore who had the game’s first chance.
Faris Ramli seized on a sloppy pass, but only managed to fire his effort high and wide. Indonesia immediately went down the other end, but a brave block from Irfan Fandi meant the chance went begging.
Another chance fell Singapore’s way five minutes later as Faris was upended just outside the box.
But, defender Lionel Tan’s curling goalbound freekick was kept out by Indonesia goalkeeper Arya Winata.
The high pressing game of the Singapore side seemed to work to their advantage as they kept the Indonesians at bay, taking a 0-0 scoreline into the break.
“(For the) first half, both sides didn’t have many chances, because we tried to hold off their wingback especially number 14, we’ve seen them play (and) who is very fast on the side,” said Fandi.
“But second half ... I thought they exploited on our left side because they have fast wingers and individually they are strong.”
The momentum of the game continued to be with the Young Lions. Ikhsan Fandi could have made it 1-0 after being played in nearly by Jacob Mahler, but his shot was deflected wide.
Arguably, the best chance of the game came in the 53rd minute, with Indonesia’s Egy Maulana cutting in from the left, beating a couple of defenders. But his effort was smartly pushed away by Zharfad Rohaizad.
It was Indonesia who finally got the breakthrough in the 64th minute, as Osvaldo Ardilles Haay pounced on some tentative defending to rifle home.
Things went from bad to worse 10 minutes later as Indonesia got their second with Asnawi Bahar bundling home to the delight of the raucous Indonesian contingent in the stands.
An Irfan header which rebounded off the bar proved the closest the Young Lions would muster but they simply could not find the back of the net.
Singapore have failed to score in both of their games, but Fandi did not lay the blame at the feet of the team.
“We have maybe one, two strikers, the rest of the countries they have maybe five, six, seven strikers,” he said. "We can’t ask for more - this is what we have, we do what we can."
“We need to push on because there are three more games and we hope that we start firing,” he added.
Singapore are in Group B, which consists of defending champions Thailand, regional heavyweights Indonesia and Vietnam as well as Brunei and Laos.
In Group A, hosts Philippines are drawn with Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Timor Leste.
The top two teams from each group qualify for the semi-finals.
The Young Lions, who currently have one point after two games, will face Thailand on Sunday.
Fandi emphasised that the team will continue to try their hardest and make the best of the situation.
“I think we don’t have much talent in Singapore. We have numbers but not real big numbers like other ASEAN countries,“ he said.
“I must really thank them because they wanted to play for the country. Where can we get players? We can’t get players. This is what we have.
“We have to keep on going.”
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