Lions to adopt safety-first approach for do-or-die Turkmenistan clash
Lions coach opts for safety-first approach in must-win match against Turkmenistan
The Lions need to beat Turkmenistan tonight to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals.
To achieve that, Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy, known for being miserly on the road, has apparently opted for a safety-first approach in this away game in Ashgabat.
Perhaps encouraged by how his team have started to score goals after switching to a three-man defence for their last three games, the 52-year-old seems to believe that a clean sheet coupled with the odd goal will be good enough.
As such, skipper Hariss Harun, a midfielder by trade, looks set to be deployed in central defence alongside Daniel Bennett and Irfan Fandi.
It is a surprising move, considering Hariss had seemed liberated by the new system and has added oomph to the Lions' attack - it was his purposeful foray and high pressing that led to Shakir Hamzah's goal when both teams met at Jalan Besar last month.
Sundram told The New Paper in a phone interview yesterday: "The change in system looks like it's working and we have had three different scorers (Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah and Faris Ramli) in our last three games.
"We want to score more, but even if we get one, we can win.
"Based on recent games against Turkmenistan and Qatar, we have quality midfielders such as Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman and Yasir Hanapi.
"This allows us to have Hariss to do the job for us in defence."
Ever the model professional, Hariss said: "The coach decides what is best for the team and if I'm playing in defence, it's not something I'm new to. I will do my best to keep things tight at the back."
Hariss will not be the only Lion who has to play out of position. Safuwan Baharudin, a defender by trade, should start in a more advanced role alongside forwards Khairul Amri and an in-form Faris who struck his 19th goal of the year in last week's 3-1 defeat by Qatar.
"Safuwan has been playing in midfield and attack for his club and is very familiar in this role, so it would not be good to change that," said Sundram.
“We have quality midfielders such as Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman and Yasir Hanapi. This allows us to have Hariss to do the job for us in defence.”National coach V Sundramoorthy
What the Lions need to alter though, is their dreadful run of form that has seen them go 10 A internationals without a win. It has been 331 days since their last win - a 1-0 victory over Cambodia last November.
Hariss, who will wear the captain's armband while skipper Shahril Ishak starts on the bench, insists his team have not lost the winning mentality.
The 26-year-old said: "It's frustrating to not have won for so long with the national team. We have not created enough chances and we have not scored enough to win matches.
"But we can see the positives in our last three games, in which we have created chances, played more fluidly and put together more combinations.
"We just have to improve on our conversion.
"Everyone in our team wants to win, we have been talking about that. We have been in transition for the past five years with three coaches and different styles of play.
"We did not get the results we wanted from our first three group games and now we just have to do it the hard way with two away and one home games left.
"With fighting spirit, pride and improved performances, we have a chance to make things right."
Probable Singapore XI: Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Daniel Bennett, Faritz Hameed, Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hafiz Sujad, Safuwan Baharudin, Khairul Amri, Faris Ramli
GROUP E'S OTHER FIXTURE
- Taiwan v Bahrain