Lions will go all out to beat Malaysia
(Shaiful Esah 16, Hariss Harun 35, 42, Khin Maung Lwin 75-og)
(Kyaw Zayar Win 55, Kyaw Ko Ko 62- pen)
In a tight tournament like the AFF Suzuki Cup, teams will take a win in any way it comes.
In front of 24,000 fans at the National Stadium last night, Singapore allowed Myanmar cut their three-goal advantage to just one, before eventually prevailing 4-2.
But the Lions know that their second-half performance was simply unacceptable, and there is no room for similar complacency and shoddy defending in their blockbuster Group B finale against Malaysia on Saturday.
Shaiful Esah and Hariss Harun put up barnstorming displays last night.
Left back Shaiful wreaked havoc with his free-kicks, leading to the first and fourth goals, while midfield general Hariss produced two powerful finishes to pummel the visitors into submission.
But, just when they looked like they had overcome the loss of midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, who broke his right leg after clashing with teammate Khairul Amri, and right back Ismadi Mukhtar to a groin injury, to cruise to a 3-0 half-time lead, the Lions allowed Myanmar to get back into the game.
Substitute Zulfahmi Arifin lost the ball in the defensive third and failed to close down Kyaw Zayar Win, who played a one-two past Baihakki Khaizan to score in the 55th minute.
Backed by a vociferous 2,750-strong Myanmar crowd, the visitors then earned a dubious penalty seven minutes later after Safuwan Baharudin was adjudged to have felled Kyaw Ko Ko, who converted the subsequent spot-kick.
Shaiful told The New Paper after the match: "It's unacceptable how we made things difficult for ourselves after building a three-goal lead.
"At half-time, coach (Bernd Stange) told everyone not to be complacent, but we went on to concede two goals instead."
Skipper Shahril Ishak said: "We should have been more composed and focused to finish off the game when we were so far ahead, but we gave ourselves unnecessary pressure.
"We were nervous at 3-2 but, at the end of the day, what matters is we got the three points. We got away with it this time, but it's unacceptable and we cannot repeat this in our do-or-die match against Malaysia."
Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny added: "Maybe losing Shahdan and Ismadi, two of our best players in the first half, unsettled us.
"But we really made things difficult for ourselves by conceding the two goals. This is not the time to blame individuals, but we will learn as a team and I hope all the players will remember how we nearly threw this match away and not let this happen again."
While Stange insisted his side got the job done and that he was not disappointed with the second-half performance, the 66-year-old German conceded that Myanmar dominated the second half.
He said: "I saw problems in defence, but it's not a matter for only the defenders. It's an issue for the whole team when we gave the opponents too much space.
"We got tired, we were not sharp like we were in the first half and we couldn't keep the ball. We have a lot to improve."
While a point in Saturday's decider against Malaysia would be enough to send Singapore through to the semi-finals, unless Thailand lose to Myanmar by four goals, Stange said he will not set up his team to go for just a draw.
"I cannot... I will not make this mistake that you are asking for," he said.
"Derbies are special games and it will be a great game on Saturday. As a coach, I have been part of big derbies like Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin, Belarus v Ukraine, and Iraq v Iran, where my team won 1-0 in front of 120,000 fans.
"We thank the fans for supporting us tonight, because it was a battle for them against Myanmar in the stands, just as it was for us on the pitch.
"We have to think positive, recover and find a way to field our strongest team on Saturday."
I saw problems in defence, but it’s not a matter for only the defenders. It’s an issue for the whole team when we gave the opponents too much space.
- Singapore coach Bernd Stange