Sundram moves Safuwan up front, Hariss to midfield
Sundram ready to use versatile star in striker's role as Hariss moves up into midfield
REPORTING FROM YANGON
AYA BANK CUP FINAL
VIETNAM v SINGAPORE
(Tonight, 7.25pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
Trust the wily coach in V Sundramoorthy to pull an ace out of his sleeve.
In their final training session last evening at the Aung San Stadium ahead of tonight's AYA Bank Cup final against Vietnam at the Thuwunna YTC Stadium, the 50-year-old decided to mix things up by pushing defender-turned-midfielder Safuwan Baharudin up as a striker.
"We got to keep them thinking lah," the national football coach quipped.
While Sundramoorthy felt his team did well generally to beat Myanmar 1-0 on Friday, he wanted the Lions to win more challenges in midfield and to keep possession better.
Hence, he is redeploying Hariss Harun, who skippered Singapore in central defence against Myanmar, back in midfield in a bid to add more bite and aggression in the middle of the park.
Warriors centre back Madhu Mohana, back from suspension, will line up alongside Baihakki Khaizan in defence.
With Izzdin Shafiq and Azhar Sairudin retained in central midfield, this frees up Safuwan for the No. 9 role.
Sundramoorthy explained: "Safuwan is good in the air, he can attack the goal or flick the ball on for his teammates to score.
"Our wingers Gabriel (Quak) and Faris (Ramli) had some good moments on the wings against Myanmar, and I want them to put in more crosses from the flanks for Safuwan.
"Vietnam conceded twice from passes from wide areas in their 2-2 draw against Hong Kong, so that could be something we can capitalise on."
And it is a challenge the 58-capped Safuwan relishes. Furthermore, it is not an unfamiliar role for him as he started as the most advanced player and scored a late penalty in Singapore's 2-1 home defeat by Syria last November.
The 24-year-old, who has scored five times and notched seven assists for the national team over the past three years, told The New Paper: "I have played as a striker for the National Football Academy Under-15s, Under-16s and Simei ITE, now I'm also a striker with PDRM FA.
"I'm not very happy with my scoring returns this season (three in 15 games), especially when I hit double figures (15 goals) for LionsXII, Melbourne City and Singapore last year.
"In my last four club matches, I took 20 shots and, although I didn't score, I will keep trying.
"Regardless of my position, I always go into every game aiming to score.
"It is a good thing that coaches trust me enough to play me in different positions, and it was how I survived at Melbourne City and PDRM."
Beside hoping Safuwan can make an impact in attack, Sundramoorthy will also need his defence and goalkeeper Hassan Sunny to stay in top form to repel the fearsome Vietnamese attack led by striker Le Cong Vinh, who poached both goals against Hong Kong.
The coach said: "Hassan's assured presence is important as his command of the penalty area, his good form and his big saves give confidence to the team."
But even the Dazzler was stunned when he learnt that Singapore have not beaten Vietnam in 11 games since the 1998 Tiger Cup final victory, according to Fifa stats.
Still, he recovered quickly to fire a response: "Then it's about time we turned the tables."
- Probable Singapore starting 11: Hassan Sunny, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Izzdin Shafiq, Hariss Harun, Gabriel Quak, Azhar Sairudin, Faris Ramli, Safuwan Baharudin.