SEA Games 2017, Aug 19-30

SEA Games: Positive start key to Singapore's first win

Ikhsan Fandi celebrating his penalty-kick goal to put Singapore 2-0 up against Laos in their Group A match yesterday.
Ikhsan Fandi celebrating his penalty-kick goal to put Singapore 2-0 up against Laos in their Group A match yesterday.PHOTO: EUGENE LIM/SPORT SINGAPORE

Early momentum seals victory against Laos, but Tardy notes team's loss of concentration

GROUP A

Singapore 2

Laos 0

Given their first starts in the SEA Games football competition, Singapore's Taufik Suparno and Hanafi Akbar wasted no time making an impression in a 2-0 win over Laos yesterday.

In less than three minutes at the Selayang Stadium, Hanafi crossed from the left to an unmarked Taufik, who drilled home the opener for the Young Lions.

Laos centre-back Pathammavong Piyaphong limped off after nine minutes and his replacement Lounlasy Lathasay's first contribution was to concede a penalty for fouling Ikhsan Fandi.

The 18-year-old striker took the spot kick himself and calmly rolled it past Laos goalkeeper Paseuth Saymanolinh to put Singapore 2-0 up after just 11 minutes.

The win was Singapore's first at the 29th Games after defeats by Myanmar (2-0) and Malaysia (2-1) and moved them up to third among five teams in Group A.

Young Lions coach Richard Tardy was satisfied with the three points but not the overall display.

He said: "We played better against stronger teams in our first two games and lost. Today we didn't play well and won. After the two early goals, my players felt it was too easy and lost concentration and I'm not happy with that."

Whatever attacking verve Singapore showed at the start disappeared in the second half and part of that was due to a fading Hanafi, who was replaced by midfielder Haiqal Pashia Anugrah soon after the hour mark.

That summed up why he opted not to use the 22-year-old winger for the first two matches, said Tardy, who also recalled Taufik, 21, playmaker Adam Swandi, 21, and defender Shahrin Saberin, 22.

He said: "I know what Hanafi can do. Technically he is good but against teams like Myanmar and Malaysia who press, he must defend, work hard and have high levels of energy. He does not do that enough.

"I felt he could help us today as he would not have much defensive work."

The attack-minded starting XI were unlike the Frenchman's more conservative tactics in the previous two games.

Laos' Singaporean coach Mike Wong, a former assistant to ex-Lions coach Raddy Avramovic, defended Tardy's decisions.

He noted: "Every coach doesn't put up his best XI but his most effective XI. What Richard did in the first two games was to use the right set of players he felt would get him the result and I think he was right."

In the day's other match, Group A leaders Myanmar beat Brunei 6-0 for their third straight win to book their spot in the semi-finals.

Hosts Malaysia are expected to join them. They face Myanmar, silver medallists in 2015, on Monday, needing a point to advance to the last four.

The Young Lions, who were eliminated at the group stage of the 2015 Games, are once again unlikely to progress from their group.

They need to beat Brunei in their final match next Wednesday and hope second-placed Malaysia lose both their remaining games.

Regardless of these permutations, yesterday's result was a step in the right direction for Singapore captain Irfan Fandi, 20.

He said: "I told the boys I didn't want to go back with another loss and we answered with a win. There's more confidence and we will go all out again against Brunei."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Positive start key to Spore's first win'. Print Edition | Subscribe