Sundram: We have every chance to qualify for Asian Cup
Sundram targets wins in next two home games after pulling off gutsy draw with Bahrain
Letting out a primal yell at the final whistle, 19-year-old defender Irfan Fandi showed just how much the result meant to the Lions.
It was not quite the Miracle of Saitama, in which Singapore held mighty Japan to a goal-less draw in 2015.
But yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 0-0 stalemate with Bahrain in their Asian Cup Group E qualifier must still be regarded as a superb result, as it was Singapore's first point against the Middle Eastern team in six previous "A" internationals, according to Fifa statistics.
The draw also ended a horrible run of 13 straight away defeats by Middle Eastern or Arabic countries since a 2-1 World Cup qualifier victory at Lebanon in 2008.
More importantly, the Lions will return to Singapore with the belief and optimism that they can maybe create history and qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals in the United Arab Emirates.
Singapore sit joint-second with Bahrain behind leaders Turkmenistan with five games to play. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Finals.
"It's important to start the campaign on the right foot and now we have every chance to go on and qualify for the Asian Cup," national football coach V Sundramoorthy told The New Paper after the match.
"I believe it's about us now, going out there and trying to make it happen.
"Obviously, playing at home against Taiwan (June 10) and Turkmenistan (Sept 5), we have to try to go out there and get maximum points.
"We will work hard and make sure we do our job well.
"Hopefully, this is the start of a successful new chapter. I have been given a two-year extension, I want to make the most of it, win games and achieve success with the national team.
"This result is a boost for Singapore football and it shows our players can compete at this level if they stay focused and disciplined. We had a good performance against Afghanistan too, but lost 2-1.
"This time, they really got stuck in and got the job done."
Sundram's men produced quite literally a defensive performance for the ages that even earned the grudging respect of Bahrain coach Miroslav Soukop.
He said: "It would have been easier to beat a team who came here to attack, so in that sense, Singapore got their tactics right, even if we knew they were going to play this way."
At the back, teenage centre back Irfan Fandi, 19, impressed in his competitive debut with just his third cap alongside 39-year-old Daniel Bennett, the most-capped Lion with 134.
With the fullbacks putting in an extra shift, the Lions snuffed out the bigger, stronger and technically superior Bahrain attackers as goalkeeper Hassan Sunny needed to make just one real stop the entire game.
And what a big save it turned out to be, as the Home United custodian, who was flawless in his dealing with crosses, dived low to his left in the 74th minute to deny Ahmed Ali.
Faritz Abdul Hameed had to be alert to clear off the line in the 77th minute, but to say that Singapore weathered the storm would be an injustice to their overall performance.
The Lions were diligent, disciplined and determined. And if they had been more decisive with their two best chances of the first half, they could have even nicked a famous win.
Safuwan Baharudin shot straight at the goalkeeper in the 20th minute, and two minutes later, substitute Khairul Nizam, who came on for the injured Khairul Amri (groin) in the 10th minute, stabbed wide from Shakir Hamzah's cross after a sweeping move.
It wasn't the typical back-against-the-wall performance that has come to be associated with Sundram's Lions.
Rather, it seemed like the team finally managed to execute the type of counter-attacking style their coach demands with a focused and committed display.
Even in the last moments of the match, they did not succumb to pressure and commit silly fouls. Irfan was the only Singapore player booked yesterday morning.
Skipper Hariss Harun put his European transfer woes behind him with a commanding display in central midfield alongside the steady Izzdin Shafiq, providing the defence with excellent cover.
"It is a good start, but we won't get carried away because it's just the start," said Hariss.
"We know we will have to score and win our next two home matches to set us up nicely for qualification.
"We have to realise this goal is achievable and continue to be on our toes and work for each other."
David Lee and Benjamin Seetor's trip is sponsored by Qatar Airways Singapore. Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of 195 aircraft flying to more than 150 business and leisure destinations, including Doha and Bahrain. The world's fastest-growing airline will add a number of exciting new destinations, including Dublin, Nice and Skopje, to its network this year.
- BAHRAIN: Sayed Jaffer, Sayed Isa Hasan, Waleed Al Hayam, Ahmed Ali, Ahmed Abdullah, Ali Habib (Ismail Abdullatif 46), Sayed Dhea (Abdullah Yaser 68), Komail Hasan Abdullah, Hesham Nayem (Abu Bakr Adam 82), Saad Marzooq, Abdullah Yusuf Helal
- SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny, Faritz Abdul Hameed, Irfan Fandi, Daniel Bennett, Shakir Hamzah, Safuwan Baharudin (Anumanthan Mohan Kumar 70), Hariss Harun, Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi, Juma'at Jantan, Khairul Amri (Khairul Nizam 10, Mustafic Fahrudin 84)
- SHOTS ON TARGET: Bahrain 3; Singapore 1
- SHOTS OFF TARGET: Bahrain 7; Singapore 1
- CORNERS: Bahrain 10; Singapore 2
- YELLOW CARDS: Bahrain 1; Singapore 1
- SINGAPORE v TAIWAN (June 10)
- TURKMENISTAN v BAHRAIN (June 13)