Young Lions' blunt cutting edge clear in dead rubber

Even as Singapore wrapped up their SEA Games football campaign last night, the team bid goodbye to Kuala Lumpur with what could be termed a frustrating 1-0 victory over Brunei.

In a scrappy game with plenty of chances for Richard Tardy's men to score, they needed a 75th- minute own-goal from defender Khalid Wassadisalleh Mahmud to win at the Selayang Stadium.

Singapore finished third in Group A with six points, behind semi-finalists Myanmar (nine points) and Malaysia (12 points).

The record books will note the game as a win for the Young Lions, but their inability to break down a Bruneian side that had conceded 11 in their last three matches showed up the inconsistent nature of the team.

Centre-back Irfan Fandi, who skippered the team, insisted that they deserved victory, saying: "I applaud the boys for the way they kept going. This is a game we were meant to win. Sometimes, we can miss a lot of chances and still win. We had that luck today.

"We played a good game against Brunei, we kept the ball really well and made chances. But we must also go back to training to work even harder on our finishing."

Against Brunei, there were flashes of skill. Positives can be drawn from the displays from midfielders Hanafi Akbar, Muhaimin Suhaimi and Adam Swandi, and full-backs Syahrul Sazali and Shahrin Saberin.

However, the Young Lions could not zero in on the Bruneian goal.

Hanafi struck the bar in the 35th minute, Irfan headed straight at the custodian in the 56th minute from a free header and, in the most glaring miss of all, forward Taufik Suparno hoofed over the bar from inside the six-yard box in stoppage time.

In the end, it was substitute right-back Rusyaidi Salime who made the difference as his cross struck the thigh of Khalid and deflected into the net.

As the Young Lions exit the football competition, they are left with thoughts of how differently their SEA Games campaign could have turned out.

Two lapses of concentration gave Myanmar a 2-0 win in their opening match, and this was followed by a 2-1 defeat by hosts Malaysia, who outfought the Young Lions after trailing. A 2-0 win over Laos did little to boost their qualifying hopes .

But with 10 of the squad of 20 still eligible for the next Games in 2019, Irfan is feeling buoyant.

The 20-year-old said: "We will do good in the next SEA Games. We gained valuable experience and we will come back much stronger."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Young Lions' blunt cutting edge clear in dead rubber'. Print Edition | Subscribe