With an impressive first-half display of firepower in a 4-2 win over Cambodia in front of a boisterous 1,989-strong crowd at the Yishun Stadium last night, Singapore have a spring in their step.
"We are ready to go," declared national coach Bernd Stange about their opening Suzuki Cup Group B encounter against Thailand on Sunday.
While the opponents were lowly Cambodia, who achieved their only victory in 14 matches against Singapore in a 3-0 win 42 years ago, the reigning Suzuki Cup champions showed plenty of creativity in attack.
Watched by former Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic, now with Myanmar, the Lions showed plenty of purposeful wing play in the first two goals.
Skipper Shahril Ishak produced a peach of a cross from the right flank for Khairul Amri to volley home the opener in the ninth minute, before Amri turned provider from the opposite wing, cutting the ball back for Faris Ramli to slot in his first international goal 20 minutes later.
The Lions' ability from set-pieces then came to prominence when Shahril slotted home after Shaiful Esah's 33rd-minute free-kick cannoned back off the post.
Centre-back Safuwan Baharudin, given licence to roam upfield, then sealed victory in the 38th minute when he seized on Hariss Harun's shot to fire into the bottom corner.
Said Stange: "We tried our passing game, but we were limited by the muddy conditions.
"Two comfortable wins by two-goal margins give us confidence going into the Suzuki Cup.
"We have creative players like Faris and Sahil who can pull off surprises. They make football attractive and they are why the fans are here.
"They will score a lot more in the next 10 years."
The Lions had beaten Laos 2-0 last Friday and last night's game was their final tune-up ahead of their defence of their ASEAN crown.
Singapore, co-hosts of the biennial Suzuki Cup this year, will be hoping for a huge turnout at the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium when they play their first competitive match there against the Thais.
It was not all plain-sailing against Cambodia, though, after the Lions conceded two soft goals.
Two dangerous crosses by Prak Mony Udom in the 27th and 30th minute, respectively, were not dealt with by the Singapore defence and Khoun Laburavy pounced on both occasions.
Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon tipped the Lions to defend their title, but only if the normally reliable defensive unit tightened up.
"Singapore's defence showed some problems in the first half. After 30 minutes, I thought they were finished because the back four were static and it was easy to get past them. Singapore must fix this," he said.
Stange agreed, saying: "We gave them too many chances in the middle. It was a first half that was good only for the spectators but not for coaches.
"We allowed two goals and four clear chances and we had to correct it immediately, which we did because Cambodia had zero chances in the second half.
"This is what we have to do against Thailand - get our defence right first and then attack."
This article was first published on Nov 18, 2014.
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