Shahfiq missed, but Young Lions' strikers went missing

PRIOR to the SEA Games, it seemed that the Singapore Under-23 team were armed with one of the most lethal attacking forces in the tournament.

But as they crashed out last night after a 0-1 defeat by Indonesia in a match they had to win, the Young Lions were once again toothless in attack.

Before the tournament began, coach Aide Iskandar was unsure of who he would field at centre-back as he tried out a variety of options.

The attack was never supposed to be a worry for the tactician but in 360 minutes of football at the Games, it was the front men who floundered.

Against Indonesia, they failed to muster a single shot on target in the first half. Two minutes after the break, their best chance fell to Sahil Suhaimi but the striker's header from close range was saved.

Just as worrying is the team's inability to string moves to find alternative routes around the visitors. Instead of passing in triangles, they ran in circles.

Individually, the team possessed players of calibre up front.

Sahil was coming into the Games on the back of a Cup-winning performance after a brace for the LionsXII in the 3-1 Malaysia FA Cup final win over Kelantan.

Irfan Fandi, who scored five goals in six friendlies before the Games, was tipped to follow in his father's footsteps and get the crowd on their feet.

Adam Swandi, back from his sojourn in France with Metz FC, was supposed to add some guile to the attack with his creativity.

The injured Shahfiq Ghani was missed as the midfielder's set-pieces are a major threat.

Of their five goals in the Games, only two came from open play when Faris Ramli and Sahil netted in the 3-1 win over Cambodia on Monday.

The other three came via dead balls. But what frustrated the fans was the team's tendency to hoof balls up to the front men.

The Singapore U-23 team now exit the SEA Games with a whimper but if the forwards had delivered, Singaporeans could well have been making plans to fill up the National Stadium on Saturday for the semi-finals.

But as it turned out, like the Singapore attack, those plans will now be non-existent.

drajac@sph.com.sg

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