Defenders have a tough time as Madhu loses cool
Singapore fullbacks Shakir, Nazrul suffer, centre back Madhu loses his discipline
He has in his arsenal, pace, strength and grit.
He also has the ability to withstand roughhouse tactics, and even dish out his own brand of punishment, but from the moment the first whistle went at the National Stadium last night, Shakir Hamzah looked like a schoolboy.
The Singapore left back was pulled this way and that by the intelligent movement of Syria's midfield puppet master Omar Khribin, then beaten for pace and torn to shreds by the tag-team tandem of right flankers, Mahmoud Almawas and Alaa Al Shibbli.
Across on the other wing, the Lions' right winger turned right back Nazrul Nazari had an equally torrid time, as Syria planted their flag in the wide areas on both flanks, running out 2-1 winners in last night's Group E World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier at the National Stadium.
Despite withdrawing Nazrul at half-time, coach Bernd Stange insisted that all his players were good enough to play at the international level.
Shakir did improve in the second period, but the 23-year-old was honest enough to admit there were several lessons learnt out on the pitch last night.
"This was for me the hardest night of international football in my career. The two players on my side were like horses, running up and down, and I didn't expect that (Almawas) was that fast, or that (Al Shibbli) was that good.
"It was very tough and hard to settle down," he conceded.
"I will have to learn about the opponent within the first few minutes. I can't take that long to figure out how to play against them," he added, revealing that he eventually adapted by giving more space to his tormentors, so their speed would not be such a clinical factor.
While Shakir's revelation does raise questions about the depth of preparation of the team in the lead-up to one of the country's biggest games in its football calendar, it also perhaps hints that the Lions need to spend more time at this level to get used to all the trials and tribulations that come with it.
Central defender Madhu Mohana received a straight red card in the 54th minute after he appeared to swing an arm in retaliation after provocation by Syria's Omar, a move that made the task even harder for a group of Lions who were already huffing and puffing.
Stange took no issue with the referee's decision, unlike many in the 7,468-strong crowd who saw it as Syrian gamesmanship.
"This is international football and we're playing for (a spot in) the World Cup, we need to cope with that, find the right answer," the German said.
"For some players, it is too fast.
"It (Madhu's red card) is a matter of concentration, cleverness and coolness. We have to learn," added the 67-year-old.
Baihakki Khaizan has been in similar situations before and he believes that his defensive partner will come good.
"That cost the team, but I'm sure he feels guilty about it and won't do something like that again," said the 31-year-old, who was uplifted by the grit the Lions showed to soldier on and even score with just 10 men on the field of play.
Even if his charges were outplayed for large portions of the game, Stange was adamant that they are all, without exception, able to play at this level.
"They are all good enough... they gave all what they had, in their mind and with their fitness and ability. They gave 100 per cent, exactly what I wanted," said the German.
"They are able to deliver, but the quality of a few (opposition) teams is too big."