As Causeway Derbies go, the match between the Malaysia U23 and Singapore U23 did not really light up the interest of fans of both teams due to the waterlogged pitch, but a win is still a win and the full three points went to the hosts. After the match, both head coaches Ong Kim Swee and V. Sundramoorthy expressed their optimism for the coming days.
Ong spoke of the challenges that had to be overcome en route to winning the tournament's opening match. First and foremost the heavy rain that inhibited open play for his charges. Although he felt that his players would have played better under more favourable circumstances, he praised his boys for adapting to the harsh conditions, an ability which he feels will be needed when they compete in the SEA Games in Myanmar at the end of the year.
Another difficulty faced by him was to ensure cohesiveness in the team, as a number of them such as PKNS' Nazmi Faiz and Sarawak's Junior Eldstal, are not part of the Harimau Muda squad who have been training and playing together for a few years. He praised the Singapore squad for showing cohesiveness to avoid conceding more goals after losing Afiq Yunos to a red card, and also commended Eldstal for playing well with Irfan Fazail.
He also added that the team had received a morale boost in the form of a visit from Malaysia's Prime Minister; Najib Razak in the dressing room just before the match.
Meanwhile, Singapore's head coach V. Sundramoorthy also reiterated the challenge of playing on Darul Makmur's soaked pitch. He felt that the home side did better to capitalise on the conditions, and that things would have ended up better for his boys if the weather was different.
But he also conceded that his players were "asleep" in the first half, which led to them conceding the only goal of the match at the very beginning of the second half.
He however remained optimistic of Singapore's chances, as several of his players who were unavailable for the opening match due to injuries, will be fit in time for their second match.
Finally he singled out goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari for praise, for performing well to keep the ball out and limit the damage, in place of the injured first-choice Izwan Mahbud.
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