SINGAPORE - The national Under-21 football team were beaten 3-0 by Malaysia in their Nations Cup opening match on Friday night in Malacca.
Richard Tardy's side, who started with nine Garena Young Lions players, suffered an early setback in the fourth minute, when Malaysian left-winger Safawi Rasid slammed in a rebound from the edge of the goal line after Jafri Firdaus Chew's free-kick spun off the bar.
The likes of attacking midfielder Adam Swandi, who played at last year's SEA Games on home soil, captain Ammirul Emmran and Muhaimin Suhaimi, both of whom scored three goals each at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, were prevented from creating much chances by the hosts who dominated possession. It took 35 minutes for the visitors to get their first attempt at goal.
An error by Singapore goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad gifted the second goal to Malaysia in the 52nd minute, as he fumbled the ball to allow substitute Syafiq Ahmad to score.
And Nur Syamie Amin capitalised on another defensive mess in the box to complete the visitors' nightmare in the 83rd minute.
With the loss, Singapore will face Vietnam in the third-place play-off on Sunday. The Vietnamese were beaten 2-0 by Thailand in an earlier match.
Coach Tardy was upset at his players' performance and refused to accept any excuses.
The Frenchman said: "I am not happy with what we've shown today. Our trouble is coming from our team because we didn't give a good performance today.
"We lost too many passes and we missed too easily, I don't know if some players were tired, we have some players recovering from injury like the captain and Adam (Swandi) and some players are young. But these are not excuses. We did not play good football.
"I think we conceded two clear goals, it's stupid, especially the second goal. How we conceded the second goal killed the spirit of the team. It's difficult to come back after that."
Results aside, he hopes that the team will put in an improved showing for their next game on Sunday at the Hang Jebat Stadium.
Tardy said: "We must know that we have a long way to go before the SEA Games. These kind of games can (happen) but they must learn about this loss. I hope on Sunday we will show (an improved performance)."