Singapore U15 0 North Korea U15 3: Cubs go down fighting

Singapore under-15 put in a much improved display as they went down 3-0 to defending champions North Korea under-15 in the second match of the AFC U-16 Championship Group H qualifiers on Friday night.

Yun Min opened the scoring for the visitors early on at Jalan Besar Stadium, but the Cubs managed to keep the deficit at 1-0 until the final 20 minutes, as Kye Tam and Ri Song Jin scored to add some gloss to their side’s victory.

Having knocked seven goals past Cambodia two days ago, the North Koreans came into this game full of confidence and could have scored as early as in the 4th minute.

Kung Jin Song’s snapshot was parried by Singapore keeper Kevin Wong before Kwon Nam Hyok fired wide from the follow-up.

Singapore then threatened eight minutes later when Daniel Matin Azlan put in a teasing cross from the right, but Afiq Azrhy Ehwan was unable to make contact with the ball with his head.

That miss proved to be costly as the visitors broke the deadlock after 15 minutes.

After Kye was brought down on the edge of the box, Yun stepped up and curled the dead ball beyond Wong's despairing dive.

The Cubs were unperturbed by the setback though as Mahler Jacob William flashed a long-range volley wide on 27 minutes, after Afiq’s left-wing cross was half-cleared.

They had another excellent opportunity to level matters just before the break, but Khairul Hairie Abdul Hamid’s 20-yard freekick sailed just wide of the left-hand post.  

V Selvaraj’s boys were growing in confidence as they went close again 12 minutes after the restart, with Matin firing just wide after being released by Glenn Kweh.

However they were unable to sustain their efforts as North Korea got a stranglehold on proceedings.

Kwon fired just off-target after a delightful one-two with Kye, before the duo forced Wong to stretch with their respective speculative efforts.

Their persistence paid off on 70 minutes as Kung’s right-wing cross was dummied by Kwon into the path of Kye, who thumped home a brilliant first-time volley that left Wong grasping at thin air.

Substitute Ri then added the icing on the cake in the final minute of regulation time, as he side-footed home into an empty net after Paek Kwang Min had rounded Wong on the left byline.

The Cubs eventually succumbed 3-0, but the battling display was something which warmed coach V. Selvaraj's heart.

“This is the best which I’ve seen from the boys so far in term of their psychological states,” said the former national defender at the post-match press conference.

“Our plan was to be disciplined in defence, but not to sit back too deep at the same time. All I wanted from them is to stay close with each other, get tight, win the ball and then bring it forward.

“I played some new boys today and they showed who they are; they showed a lot of heart and collected the second balls. The only problem was putting the ball into the back of the net.”

Meanwhile North Korea counterpart Kim Yong Hun admitted the hosts managed to frustrate them for most of the game.

“We’re impressed with the individual tactics and teamwork of Singapore,” he said.

“They were positive and we learnt many things from their counter attacks. Also our players were not well-prepared physically today, that’s why we cannot press well in attacking.

“For the last match, we need to emphasize on training our attacking moves.”

Photo: Football Association of Singapore