Singapore U23 0 Indonesia U23 1: Toothless Young Lions dumped out

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The host nation suffered a humiliating group stage exit from the 2015 SEA Games football competition, going down 1-0 to Indonesia U23s at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night.

Evan Dimas’ goal two minutes into the second half proved to be the difference between the two sides as the Garuda Muda progressed into the last four of the semi-finals at the expense of Singapore.

In a must-win game to keep their gold medal quest alive, Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar made three changes from the line-up that started against Cambodia last time out.

Ho Wai Loon replaced the suspended Shakir Hamzah at left back while Amy Recha and Stanely Ng came in for Irfan Fandi and Faris Ramli respectively against Indonesia, who only needed a point to progress from Group A.

However, those changes failed to have the desired effect on the team as they failed to fire a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

Safirul Sulaiman and Pravin Guanasagaran saw their wild efforts from range soar over the bar in the first 10 minutes, before Sahil Suhaimi was mere inches away from connecting with the former’s diagonal ball into the box.

In fact, Aji Santoso’s Indonesia led the way in the aspect of pressuring for a goal, troubling Singapore keeper Syazwan Buhari on more than a couple of occasions in the early stages.

The 23-year-old first got down low to smother Adam Alis Setyano’s 30-yarder and then proceeded to deny Ahmad Noviandani at his near post, following the latter’s exchange of passes with Dimas inside the box.

Dimas was next on the receiving end of a fantastic opportunity later after being teed up by Muchlis Hadi Ning Syaifulloh in front of goal, but he was unable to take the decisive final touch.

Both sides went into the break goalless, with Aide hoping to change the outlook of the game decisively by throwing on Irfan and Faris for the ineffectual Amy and Stanely.

However, the visitors broke the deadlock immediately afterwards, before the duo had any time to make an impact.

Muchlis’ cutback from the right was only half-cleared into the path of the lurking Dimas, who duly punished the lax Singapore defence by curling home a grandstand finish into the top right corner.

That stung the Young Lions into action as they began to pile the pressure on the Indonesia goal.  

Sahil’s header from Faris’ left-wing cross was palmed away by Teguh Amiruddin, before Safirul’s snapshot from range was kept out by the Indonesian custodian.

Faris and Safirul then swung in good crosses into the area, but Sahil and Irfan was unable to keep their headers on target.

Things could even have been made worse for them at the other end had Syazwan not been alert enough to keep out Syaiful Cahya’s curling free-kick and Noviandani’s goal-bound shot.

Syazwan’s contributions to keep Singapore fighting would ultimately prove futile though, as Ho was sent off for a second bookable offence after a late challenge on Dimas in the 65th minute.

Reduced to playing the latter stages with 10 men, Singapore were unable to find the goals they needed to turn the outcome around and make it into the last four.

Suria Prakash was thrown on for Sahil in another bid by Aide to up the ante, but the electric winger did not have enough time to impose himself on the game.

Despite a mammoth seven minutes of injury time awarded by referee Kim Hee-Gon, the home side simply could not find a way past the determined Indonesian backline.

The final whistle then went off to signal a premature end to the Young Lions’ SEA Games campaign, with the players breaking out uncontrollably in tears thereafter.

Defeat and elimination would soon have further reaching consequences, as Aide confirmed his decision to resign at a post-match press conference.

Image credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo