Singapore U23s 1 Syria U23s 2: Aide's men stand tall despite defeat

Singapore succumbed 2-1 to Syria in a friendly played at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night, but still emerged with their pride restored.

Saturday’s performance saw the Young Lions put on a much-improved display after their crushing 8-1 defeat to Japan last week.

Aide Iskandar’s side initially appeared to be heading for the same mauling when Syria’s Khaled Almbayed pounced on Al-Qaasimy Rahman’s poor clearance to fire past Syazwan Buhari and give the visitors the lead.

But Singapore’s response came just minutes later when Irfan Fandi scored his second goal in as many games, flicking the ball home after Suria Prakash’s shot was deflected.

Their confidence soaring, the home side nearly took the lead when Iqbal Hussain’s cross reached Suria but the number 25’s shot lacked power.

The resulting Syrian counter-attack started with keeper Abdullatif Nasaan gathering the ball with ease and ended with Singapore’s Ali Hudzaifi on the floor concussed and substituted by Afiq Noor, after taking Mahmood Albaher’s shot in the face.

Syria retained possession well despite their hosts’ physical play and were rewarded with their breakthrough in the stoppages.

Moumen Naji’s powerful free-kick, awarded for a heavy challenge on Albaher, struck the crossbar and fell to Shadi Alhamwi to stab home from close range to hand his team a 2-1 lead at half time.

Both sides increased the tempo and pressure after the break with chances at either end, but Yousef Kalfa and Ahmad Askhar failed to capitalise on Syrian set-pieces to put the game out of reach.

Meanwhile, Singapore dead-ball specialist Shafiq Ghani put his own pair of free-kicks on target but had both well saved.

The LionsXII forward had further chances to snatch a result for country but his touch saw him fluff his best chance yet when attempting to control Shamil Sharif’s lobbed ball, causing it to roll out of play.

Syria’s Kalfa then took matters into his own hands when he embarked on a mazy run down the right and through the Singapore defence, though Aide’s youngsters were spared the blushes when his shot from a tight angle sailed agonisingly across the goal mouth.

Yet keeping the score at 2-1 and avoiding another thrashing against a top Asian opponent counted as progress of sorts, and for 90 minutes, the Young Lions had shown they could hold their own versus technically superior sides with the right grit and determination. 

Photo credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo Singapore