By Satish Cheney
The Young Lions face an even greater challenge of reaching their SEA Games football final target after they fell 2-0 to Indonesia
Singapore found themselves a goal down after 45 seconds when Patrich Wanggai found the back of the net after a clever through ball from Titus Bonai.
The Young Lions then suffered another blow when striker Navin Vanu was sent off for what appeared to be a slap on an Indonesian player’s face.
Outpaced, outmatched and simply outplayed by the host nation throughout the match at the Senayan Stadium, Indonesia’s second goal came after a brilliant solo effort from Titus Bonai in the 37th minute when he waltzed around the Singapore defence and ran across the face of goal before firing a powerful shot that left Singapore’s custodian Izwan Mahbud wrong footed.
The Indonesia team affectionately known as the Garuda Muda, looked menacing each time they raced down the flanks while on the other end, Singapore’s system of sending in long balls to the Indonesian half proved wasteful as striker Khairul Nizam lacked support upfront.
Singapore’s best chance of the game came in the second half when skipper Hariss Harun’s freekick from outside the penalty box hit the top right.
Singapore coach Slobodan Pavkovic told reporters after the match his strategies went awry due to “individual mistakes” that turned out to be “huge mistakes”.
He also blamed his side’s dismal performance on many other factors including the scheduling of the game in the sweltering heat at 2pm and the lack of rest for the Young Lions.
“Our team finished a game two days ago at 9pm. Then we have to play now at 2pm. This is something very unusual. You have so many difficulties. How to train, when to eat, when to organize trainings, how to warm up even? It was not fair,” said the Serb.
After Vanu was red-carded, the coach switched to a 4-4-1 formation – something he had no choice but to implement.
“This is the only way to play if you have one player less. And our players were not disappointed with this. We were just trying to do our best in this difficult situation. And in the second half, they really did well and I think that some of them still haven’t recovered from the last game,” said Pavkovic.
The Serb’s Indonesian counterpart, Rahmad Darmawan was quick to point out that the 2pm sun was a bother for them as well, even though many of his players who ply their trade in the Indonesian domestic league play their matches in the afternoon.
“Some may think that playing in bad weather, 2pm, is an advantage for us. That is not true. It is a problem for Indonesia too,” said Rahmad.
Rahmad said his team was lucky to score its first breakaway goal and that his players failed to focus on playing as a team during the second half.
“My team was playing very individually, they were not focused on teamwork because Singapore changed formation … and that’s why they were unable to score more goals,” said the coach.
The result means the Young Lions must defeat Thailand next Thursday, and hope the other Group A results go in their favour in order to progress to the semi finals.
Pavkovic said the five-day rest period before meeting Thailand will be a “good advantage” for his squad.
Additional reporting by Jeanette Tan in Jakarta