Sundram rues late lapse, lack of fitness
Lions impress with brand of football but fade away late on to allow Turkmenistan to steal equaliser
|(Shakir Hamzah 63)||(Altymyrat Annadurdyyev 82)|
For 80 minutes, the Lions played a refreshing brand of football rarely seen in the V Sundramoorthy era.
It was the sort of attacking shift that fans would pay to watch, but many of the 3,712 present at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night would also have asked: "Why can't Singapore play like this more often?"
Liberated by a 3-4-3 system, world No. 171 Singapore made Turkmenistan, who are ranked 30 places higher in the Fifa world order, look ordinary and bereft of ideas.
Hariss Harun and Izzdin Shafiq dominated proceedings in midfield, which allowed Faris Ramli to display his repertoire of tricks and mazy dribbles, while wingbacks Nazrul Nazari and the excellent Shakir Hamzah terrorised the flanks.
However, football is not played over 80 minutes.
And three of Singapore's players did not last more than 75 minutes - striker Khairul Amri was hauled off injured after just 36 minutes, Nazrul succumbed to cramps six minutes after Shakir's opener in the 63rd minute, and Irfan Fandi couldn't shrug off a strain later on.
LACK OF FITNESS
After seeing his side throw away the lead and two points in last night's Asian Cup Group E qualifier, Sundram alluded to his team's lack of fitness.
"We tired faster than our opponents," said the 51-year-old, who is still searching for his first competitive win as the Lions' head coach.
"Hariss can play another game. He eats right, works hard, and is a role model. I hope more can follow in his footstep."
But, all is not lost, even if Singapore are currently bottom of Group E with two points, one behind Taiwan and two behind Turkmenistan.
Bahrain could move to seven points if they beat Taiwan at home this morning (Singapore time).
For most parts of the match, Singapore were the better team.
They had chances to score in the first half - Amri failed to connect with Nazrul's peach of a right-wing cross after 10 minutes, before striking the woodwork off a clever free-kick routine in the 34th minute.
From the resulting corner, Hariss headed Zulfahmi Arifin's delivery into the ground and over. While he won his fair share of headers, Safuwan Baharudin was also wasteful as one of the front-three players.
The Lions even enjoyed a large dose of luck as referee Yudai Yamamoto waved away the visitors' penalty claims after goalkeeper Hassan Sunny had clearly caught Altymyrat Annadurdyyev in the box.
The second half continued in the same vein and Shakir made the breakthrough in the 63rd minute, lashing in his first international goal in 37 caps after Hariss had worked hard to regain possession.
This was just the fifth time Singapore had scored from open play and only the fifth time the Lions took the lead in 17 internationals under Sundram.
But the rash of substitutions saw the hosts fall back on a five-man defence after scoring and, even then, Arslanmyrat Amanov's 82nd-minute cross caught the Lions' backline napping as Annadurdyyev tapped in the equaliser.
"We had chances to finish off the game. We should have scored the second goal and we would have been okay," said Sundram.
"The boys did well, but should have done better in the last quarter."
Singapore's next qualifier will be in Turkmenistan on Oct 10, and Sundram is banking on Bahrain to be the runaway Group E leaders so that his team can still benefit from the scrap.
He said: "The table is still open if Bahrain beat Taiwan and pull away so that Turkmenistan, Taiwan and us battle for second place to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
"We should work harder. We have the belief in the boys, they need to believe in themselves, and we will take the game to Turkmenistan."
Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi (Faritz Hameed 75), Daniel Bennett, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari (Madhu Mohana 69), Izzdin Shafiq, Hariss Harun, Shakir Hamzah, Safuwan Baharudin, Faris Ramli, Khairul Amri (Fazrul Nawaz 36)
Mamed Orazmuhamedov, Gurbangeldi Batyrov, Shohrat Soyunov, Mekan Saparov, Serdar Annaorazov, Umidjan Astanov (Merdan Gurbanov 68), Ahmet Atayev, Ruslan Mingazov, Myrat Annayev (Ilya Tamurkin 84), Arslanmyrat Amanov, Altymyrat Annadurdyyev
- TNP Man of the Match: