Singapore U22s' AFC Under-23 Championship qualifying campaign came to a sudden end on Tuesday afternoon, after they could only manage a 2-2 draw against Mongolia U22.
Irfan Fandi rescued the Cubs from what would have been an embarrassing defeat as he equalised twice to ensure they finish third in Group J, winless after drawing with Laos and losing to China last week.
Against the unfancied Mongolians, Richard Bok’s team came into the game looking for a win to keep their slim hopes of finishing second in the group and possibly qualifying as one of the best runners-up.
The Cubs found themselves on the back foot after eight minutes when a poor defensive clearance saw Mongolia defender Mungunshagai Tsgotbaatar slam the loose ball home from inside the box to put his side in front.
Janchiv Sundorj almost doubled the lead three minutes later when he evaded the attention of five red shirts to fire his shot from distance just wide of the right post.
Irfan responded in the 17th minute when he headed home from a corner to equalise with Singapore’s first goal in qualifying.
Poor defensive concentration just before half-time saw the Cubs fall behind again as Purevdorj Erdenebat was afforded time and space to shoot home inside the box.
A tactical switch at the break saw Irfan being pushed up front from his centre-back role, as the Cubs sought an equaliser.
Their sustained pressure was rewarded on the hour when Irfan capitalised on a missed clearance off a free kick from a Mongolian defender to score from close range.
The 17-year-old then squandered two opportunities in the space of five minutes as he missed the chance to put his country in front and seal a personal hat-trick.
He first headed wide off a cross in the 74th minute before he saw a ground shot hit against the post moments later.
Apart from Irfan, the other Cubs were unable to turn their second-half dominance into further goals as poor decision making undid their work in the final third to see their qualifying dreams end with a whimper at the final whistle.
Photo: Football Association of Singaporecomments