Singapore Football

Sundram: Lions need Hariss in midfield

Singapore now only need to avoid defeat in their Causeway Derby against Malaysia on Saturday to progress to the semi-finals. But defender Baihakki Khaizan (suspended) and midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman (broken leg) are out. How can Bernd Stange solve this problem?

SUNDRAM: For me, Shakir Hamzah is the obvious answer.

He can play as a left-sided centre back and slot in for Baihakki.

He played in that position for the LionsXII under me many times in 2013, and he can be counted upon.

He is fast, good in the air and, for me, he's a ready-made replacement.

This way, Hariss Harun can also stay in midfield.

You are not in favour of using Hariss in defence, like what Stange did in the second half against Thailand last Sunday?

No, because we need Hariss in the centre of midfield.

Sure, he scored two goals last night, but it's not just his impact going forward that is vital to the team.

Look at how important he was for the Lions defensively, when Myanmar were trying to draw level.

We also need him to shackle Safiq Rahim in the middle of the park.

The Malaysian captain had a great game against Thailand and scored a brilliant goal, and he's the man to watch on Saturday.

So, for me, there's no question about it: Hariss has to play in the centre.

Stange named an unchanged team from the 11 that lost 1-2 to Thailand. Did that surprise you?

Initially, it did. But Bernd knows best, he is with the boys every day, so he knew what he was doing when he put the team out.

And they did exactly what he wanted them to in the first half by running to a 3-0 lead, so credit to him.

What do you think was the reason for their improved performance from the one against Thailand?

After the defeat by Thailand, the boys were hungry for the win, and they all had that desire that some lacked in the first game.

From kick-off, they were pressing and aggressive on the ball. They were excellent in the first half.

Hariss was dominant in the middle of the park, Shahdan was pulling the strings and, Faris Ramli, I felt did well too.

In the second half, the Lions allowed Myanmar to claw back to 2-3. Is that a worry?

The team just got a little bit complacent.

Once you are in the comfort zone, you will always take your foot off the pedal, no matter what you tell yourself.

Myanmar also started the second half eager to cut the deficit, and they pulled one back when our defence went to sleep.

Then there was the penalty - which I thought was 50-50 - that changed the complexion of the game.

But Hassan Sunny pulled off a great save to keep us in front, and then we got that vital fourth goal.

At the end of the day, the two free-kicks Sahil Suhaimi won and Shaiful Esah delivered, proved the difference.

AFF Suzuki Cup