Goals now the top priority for Lions
With Suzuki Cup looming, skipper Hariss says Lions must start scoring
(Amro Jeniat 65, Khaled Almbayed 70)
He is part of the Johor Darul Ta'zim I invincibles who lifted their third consecutive Malaysian Super League title this year with an unbeaten 18-4-0 record.
For a footballer so accustomed to winning at club level, Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun - who has won five major titles with JDT I and is the only player with four successive MSL titles (one with the LionsXII) - must be frustrated with the national team's current form.
Perhaps it is also the responsibility he feels wearing the captain's armband, and after being part of the 2-0 defeat by Syria last night at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi, Negeri Sembilan, the 25-year-old wants the Lions to start stamping their authority on the pitch.
And sparking a winning momentum before it's too late with the Suzuki Cup kicking off on Nov 19.
FRUSTRATION: Skipper Hariss Harun leaving the pitching after Singapore players like Safuwan Baharudin again failed to find the net. TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
When asked if the pressure is building with the team going six matches without a win since a 1-0 victory over Myanmar in June, Hariss said: "Definitely. We need momentum going into the tournament.
"We are playing well for most or some parts of our matches and we want to start making it count from the next match. That one win will go a long way.
"We need to be calm and patient. We cannot lack self belief or be too anxious. We have the experience and ability to play well and, today, the first half was proof of that.
"We have good tactical awareness and we work our socks off. The extra ingredient we need is to start asserting our authority. We had that before, and we need to find that again."
World No. 171 Singapore were firm underdogs against Syria last night, but did well to contain their world No. 96 opponents in the first half even though first-choice centre back pairing Daniel Bennett and Baihakki Khaizan were out with minor injuries and key attackers Faris Ramli and Khairul Amri started on the bench.
Chances were at a premium on a soggy pitch cut up by the afternoon downpour, and that was testament to Hariss' control of proceedings in the engine room alongside an eager but raw S.League Young Player of the Year, Anumanthan Mohan Kumar.
And even when Syria made it past Hariss and Anumanthan, goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was a reassuring presence at the back as he pulled off a good stop in the 26th minute to deny Ahmad Aldouni and smothered the loose ball before Mahmoud Al Mawas could capitalise.
Singapore started the brighter of the two sides after the restart, with Safuwan Baharudin awarded only a free-kick after it looked like he was upended by Tamer Hag Mohamad in the box. Shahfiq Ghani flashed the resulting 48th-minute effort into the side netting.
Amri almost made an instant impact after replacing Shahfiq, but Hafiz Abu Sujad could not get ahead of his marker to reach his cut back from the right on the hour mark.
In front of a small crowd that included 20 diehard Singapore fans, the Lions could not keep up that fine pressure and their opponents took over.
The Syrians advanced from the right in a well-worked move which ended with Ahmad Aldouni squaring for substitute Amro Jeniat to tap in the opener into an open goal in the 65th minute.
Five minutes later, they sealed the match when Khaled Almbayed nodded a free-kick into the ground, beating substitute goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud with the bounce.
Substitute Shahdan Sulaiman could have reduced arrears in the 74th minute when he found himself clear on the right side of the box, but could only fire into the side netting.
Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy admitted his biggest concern now is converting the chances created.
In his seven games in charge this year, the Lions have scored just three and drew blank against Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong and now Syria.
"It was a good training match for us to prepare for the Suzuki Cup and the boys gave everything," said Sundram.
"Syria are better than the Philippines and I chose to play Syria in this friendly to show the team how physical Philippines can be.
"It was 60-40 in their favour but we were playing a strong team and we also had good set-piece deliveries and chances from Shahfiq, Amri and Shahdan. We were okay defensively until two lapses cost us the game.
"We work as a unit and I can see and feel that in the changing room and on the team bus. We are ready."
TEAMS AND LIONS' RATING
- SYRIA: Ibrahim Alma, Alaa Al Shbbli, Ahmad Alsaleh (Zaher Alghunaimi Almedani 46), Omro Al Midani, Mouaiad Alajaan, Tamer Hag Mohamad, Mahmoud Al Mawas (Yousef Kalfa 87), Khaled Almbayed, Osama Omari (Amro Jeniat 55), Sanharib Malki Sabah (Hamid Mido 77), Ahmad Aldouni
- SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny 7 (Izwan Mahbud 46) 6, Faritz Abdul Hameed 6 (Juma'at Jantan 46) 6, Madhu Mohana 6, Afiq Yunos 6 (Mustafic Fahrudin 87), Shakir Hamzah 6, Yasir Hanapi 6 (Shahdan Sulaiman 55) 6, Anumanthan Mohan Kumar 6, Hariss Harun 7, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6 (Faris Ramli 75), Safuwan Baharudin 6, Shahfiq Ghani 6 (Khairul Amri 57) 6.5.
- TNP Man of the Match: Hariss Harun (Singapore)