Football: Fandi Ahmad rues missed chances in U-22s' 1-1 draw with Hong Kong in opening AFC Under-23 qualifier

Singapore's Young Lions training at the Geylang field on Feb 25, 2019.
Singapore's Young Lions training at the Geylang field on Feb 25, 2019.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - It was encouraging that his team struck back immediately after falling behind, but Singapore's 1-1 draw with Hong Kong in the Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship qualifier on Friday (March 22) still left a sour taste in coach Fandi Ahmad's mouth.

The national Under-22 side carved out chances but were not clinical enough to make them count in their opening Group G game at the MFF Football Centre in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

"We are quite disappointed with the result," Fandi, 56, lamented.

"I thought we could have won the game because we had more chances. We had good shots at goal, but the goalkeeper saved or we hit the post."

The Singaporeans dominated most of the game, creating a host of chances from their passing moves but were unable to find the net.

In the 29th minute, captain Joshua Pereira arrived at the far post to meet midfielder Hami Syahin's cross from the right, but he blasted over the bar.

Then in the 42nd minute, striker Ikhsan Fandi broke clear of the defence - only for the goalkeeper to deny him.

Against the run of play, Hong Kong defender Tsui Wang Kit scored in the 52nd minute.

But, within a minute, Fandi's men equalised through centre-back Lionel Tan, who netted from close range after fellow defender Irfan Fandi had headed on Hami's 53rd-minute free kick. Hami also saw one of his crosses rebound off the post in the second half.

On the wasted opportunities, Fandi added: "In the first half alone, we created three chances. In terms of chances, we created more than them. They had one or two, but we had a mistake amongst our defenders and they scored a goal.

"But we kept going at them. It's a very, very tough game, trying to adapt to the situation here. We are still quite happy with a point but, in the end...we could have done better than this."

Singapore will meet North Korea, who defeated hosts Mongolia 1-0 in the other Group G game on Friday, in their second match on Sunday.

The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will qualify for the Finals in Thailand in January. The top-three finishers will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Fandi concedes that he has little knowledge of the North Koreans, but he wants his players to go all out to get a result.

He said: "We don't know much about DPR Korea. They are very aggressive, very fit. What we can do is to watch them, but I hope we can find more videos of them.

"I know they have been training very hard for three weeks, that's what their coach said.

"We must be prepared; whatever comes, we have to face it. They are a very strong team.

"We are going into this game as underdogs but, hopefully, we can do better and get the three points."