We must improve, says Singapore coach Stange
From Stange to Hariss, Lions know the performances have been poor
A goal in front and with the clock ticking down, the Lions decided to indulge in a bit of keep ball last night.
But, far from the slick, tippy-tappy football many had expected them to exhibit against minnows Cambodia, Bernd Stange's men never looked like they had the the ball truly under control.
A series of misplaced passes drew loud groans from the 9,417 fans who had turned up at the National Stadium, and the uninspiring build-up ended with left back Shakir Hamzah sending a puzzling pass straight out for a Cambodia goal-kick, telling the story of their night.
Despite his side winning their World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier 2-1 - the team's second win in a week following a 1-0 win over Afghanistan here last Thursday - Stange was again left to defend his side's below-par performance in the post-match press conference.
One reason, he offered, was the condition of his players as it was the tail end of the club football season in South-east Asia.
Another, said the German, was the team's determination to stick to a passing game, even though they struggled with it on a number of occasions.
"(Compare the performance) with our last performance against Afghanistan, where we were permanently kicking long balls," said Stange.
"We had to find our way back to combination (passing) football, and sometimes we did not find the right way to go forward.
"We passed to many balls without a target.
"We have to improve that and we have to make it better."
Skipper Hariss Harun, who showed drive from the centre of midfield which was lacking in many other areas of the pitch last night, agreed.
"We tried to keep the ball on the ground, but we were just not as sharp as we should have been," he said.
"We weren't keeping the ball long enough, some passes were misdirected... But we have to make these mistakes sometimes to learn, and the important thing now is that we learn and not repeat them."
The 24-year-old, a key part of Johor Darul Ta'zim's triumphant Malaysian Super League campaign and run to the AFC Cup semi-finals, said the players were keen to put the poor performances against Afghanistan and Cambodia behind them, and focus on the positives.
The Lions are in a good position to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals for the first time in Singapore's history.
"It was great for our confidence that we got the job done to get to 10 points (from five games)," said Hariss.
"We know in terms of performance, we should have done better and scored more goals.
"Just before and after the goal by Fazrul (Nawaz in the 47th minute), we created many chances but could not put them away.
"We've got to work on it, and regroup.
"We showed glimpses of how we want to play, and now we have to do it for a longer period.
"Still, the six points in the last two games have put us in a good position and we have to just look forward now and believe we can make it to the next round."
We tried to keep the ball on the ground, but we were just not as sharp as we should have been.
— Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun (in red)