Five things we learnt from Singapore 0-0 Hong Kong: Stalemate in Hougang
1) Afiq a square peg in a round hole
You can't fault coach Aide Iskandar for experimenting, but the importance of injured left-back Shakir Hamzah was all too apparent after this match. Right-back Al-Qaasimy Rahman had deputised in the first game against Papua New Guinea and had a decent outing, but Aide opted for the left-footed Afiq Yunos against Hong Kong.
While it might have seemed a decent pick on paper, the centre-back looked ill at ease at times on Tuesday evening, struggling to cover the nippy Hong Kong flankers who burst past him all too often.
Left winger Fazrul Nawaz tracked back to help in the first half, but that only meant he wasn't available for cross field balls on the counter attack.
Al-Qaasimy looks like the Lions' best bet while Shakir recovers, with Fadli Kamis covering at right-back.
2) Where's Adam?
Five players in the team failed to play a single minute of the two friendly games against PNG and Hong Kong: Shakir Hamzah, Khairul Nizam, Adam Swandi, Stanely Ng and Rudy Khairullah.
Shakir is still recovering from an injury sustained during LionsXII duty, while striker Stanely and goalkeeper Rudy are fringe players who would most likely only appear in the direst of situations.
But while the notoriously fragile Nizam might not have been risked after himself returning from yet another injury layoff, Adam's no-show was much harder to understand.
The FC Metz youngster is an exciting prospect we haven't seen too much of recently, and might have offered the Lions that extra something as they struggled to break down the Hong Kong defence.
With the team crying out for a creative outlet in the absence of Shahril Ishak, Adam sat on the pine for the entire 90 minutes yet again.
Aide's post-match comments didn't seem to explain much either: "Adam didn’t play because he’s just came back from Metz. We [will] place him into the team progressively".
“We don’t want to kill him because he hasn’t been playing any games and the friendly internationals against Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong are not easy games. We want to ensure we can field the best players available,” he said.
Which begs the question. If friendly games against Hong Kong and PNG are deemed too tough for young Adam, how will competitive Asian Games group matches against Oman, Palestine and Tajikistan be any easier?
3) Sahil needs a foil
There's no disputing the fact that Sahil Suhaimi is probably the most exciting forward in the U23 ranks at the moment.
The Courts Young Lions striker is a nippy presence up front, combining trickery and good technique to get past his man.
Against Hong Kong though, Sahil struggled to impose himself against the strong centre-backs, in particular captain Chan Wai Ho. The veteran South China defender seemed to have Sahil in his pocket for most of the game, foiling the Singaporean player's every move and denying him a clear path towards goal.
To Sahil's credit, he was often starved of service and ventured deep on numerous occasion in search of the ball but it was apparent that the striker could have used some help.
Faris Ramli and Fazrul Nawaz were too often fighting their own battles out wide, too far away to offer adequate support.
While Singapore's 4-2-3-1 formation doesn't allow for a second forward, Sahil should have been backed up by the link-up man in the hole, which leads us to...
4) The curious case of Shahfiq Ghani
2014 has not been a kind year for Shahfiq.
The LionsXII midfielder has been battling injury demons this past season, only returning in March after an operation on a fractured spine sustained during the SEA Games.
Breathing difficulties led to yet another operation, this time on his nose, in March before the training trip to Austria.
In between, the 22-year-old has struggled to find any sort of form this year, looking a pale shadow of the player he was last season.
Against Hong Kong, Shahfiq was deployed in the hole behind Sahil, but failed to make any impression at all in the first 45 minutes.
The midfielder looked sluggish and slow to react, rarely straying far from the centre circle and losing the ball as often as he got it.
There's no denying the experience that Shahfiq brings to the team, and that in itself justifies his presence in the Singapore Asian Games squad but we should be expecting so much more from a player with 12 Singaporean caps.
Everyone can see how much potential the LionsXII midfielder possesses, but he has to quickly find a way to arrest his current slump or it might just prove terminal. The Asian Games will be yet another potential platform for redemption, but it's all up to him now.
5) Direct running a refreshing change
Faris Ramli is special, not just because of his talent and potential, but because he is a rare breed in the Singapore setup.
The fans love him because his propensity to run at defenders, to take his man on and trust his dribbling skills.
While the likes of Hariss Harun and Shahdan Sulaiman, Singapore's premier midfielders, value the quick pass to find teammates in space, Faris' fearless attacking play has won him many admirers.
This has made him unique, but it appears Singapore might just have unearthed another player in his mould.
Suria Prakash was given five minutes to impress against Hong Kong and grabbed his latest chance with both hands, turning on the afterburners and giving the opposition full-back a torrid time.
The Warriors FC starlet will have to bulk up somewhat if he wants to avoid getting muscled off the ball constantly, but there was plenty of promise for the future.