SEA Games 2017, Aug 19-30: 4 days to go

Football: Tardy's tactics under scrutiny after Singapore's 2-0 loss to Myanmar

Under a stormy sky, Muhaiman Suhaimi (No. 7) attempts to gain possession during the 2-0 defeat by Myanmar at the Selayang Stadium yesterday. The Young Lions now face a crunch match against hosts Malaysia.
Under a stormy sky, Muhaiman Suhaimi (No. 7) attempts to gain possession during the 2-0 defeat by Myanmar at the Selayang Stadium yesterday. The Young Lions now face a crunch match against hosts Malaysia.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Young Lions suffer 2-0 loss to Myanmar, but Tardy denies his approach was too defensive

GROUP A

Singapore 0

Myanmar 2


The dark clouds that slowly formed above the Selayang Stadium during yesterday's opening match of the SEA Games football tournament were a metaphor for Singapore coach Richard Tardy's mood as he watched his team slump to a 2-0 loss to Myanmar.

Striker Aung Thu was once again a thorn in the Young Lions' side. The 21-year-old had scored the opener in his country's 2-0 win at last month's Asian Football Confederation Under-22 Championship qualifier and it was his calm finish in first-half injury time that broke the deadlock.

He doubled his tally in the 62nd minute with a tap-in, after good work by team-mate Maung Lwin down the right wing, to seal the three points.

The win puts the White Angels in a good position to qualify from Group A for the semi-finals. The 2015 silver medallists face Laos tomorrow while Singapore face a crunch tie against hosts Malaysia, who beat Brunei 2-1 last night.

For Tardy and his team, it was a frustrating afternoon as their gritty defensive performance was undone by misfortune just before half-time.

Aung found himself unmarked in Singapore's penalty area from a deflected shot and rolled the ball past Zharfan Rohaizad.

Tardy lamented his players' naivete and said: "We missed experience. There were two minutes to go and we know we haven't been playing well. We must push the ball higher, into our opponents' half."

ANALYSING THE RESULT

We could not keep the ball, could not pass and that left Ikshan alone in attack.

RICHARD TARDY, Singapore coach, explaining the lack of firepower up front.

The roar from the 3,210 fans - the majority of whom were sporting Myanmar colours - after the goal was filled with delight and relief.

Myanmar had dominated the first 45 minutes and could have taken the lead if not for several good saves from Zharfan.

Tardy had opted for a workmanlike formation with Ikhsan Fandi in the lone forward role and a five-man midfield behind him. A powerful run in the 36th minute saw him go past several Myanmar defenders but there were no team-mates in the penalty box waiting for his cross.

It summed up his isolation as attackers Hanafi Akbar and Taufik Suparno sat on the bench.

However, Tardy rejected the notion that his tactics were too defensive and said: "We could not keep the ball, could not pass and that left Ikshan alone in attack."

The Young Lions were more aggressive after the interval and created chances for Ikhsan to test Sann Sat Naing. The 18-year-old said: "We dominated the second half and didn't deserve to lose but we missed a lot of chances. We need to learn to finish them better."

They also need to cut out their lapses in concentration, admitted defender Amirul Adli, whose goal-line clearance in the first half was ultimately in vain. He added: "We kept our focus for 95 per cent but in those moments we didn't, Myanmar scored."

The second goal was a prime example. Syahrul Sazali was distracted as Myanmar took a quick throw-in and Maung easily turned the Singapore left-back and crossed for Aung to finish from close range.

Tardy admitted the path to the semi-finals now looks precarious for the Young Lions - who were knocked out in the group stage at the 2015 Games held in Singapore.

He said: "The positives were our second half. We gave them problems and the boys looked more free. We have nothing to lose against Malaysia and I want to keep this spirit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Tactics under scrutiny'. Print Edition | Subscribe