SINGAPORE - A dismal defeat by Hong Kong, and now a disappointing draw against Macau. With just two international friendlies to go, national football coach Bernd Stange demands that the Lions arise from their slumber with time running out before they begin their Suzuki Cup title defence next month.
"It's definitely time to wake up," fumed the 66-year-old German (above) after watching the Lions - ranked 149th in the world - concede a late equaliser to world No. 186 Macau to draw 2-2 at the Macau University of Science and Technology last night.
It was a marked improvement in performance from the 2-1 loss to Hong Kong last Friday, as Singapore laid siege on the Macau goal and dominated close to 80 per cent of possession in the first half. Khairul Amri, who has just recovered from a fractured cheekbone, grabbed a brace, punishing a hesitant Macau defence to slam the ball into the net from close range in the 23rd minute before shooting in off the post from the edge of the box in the 36th minute to take his tally to 21 goals from 86 caps.
The 29-year-old's return to form is one bright spark for Stange, and so was the endeavour of fellow first-half attackers Sahil Suhaimi, Shahfiq Ghani and Faris Ramli. But the Lions should have sealed a victory with more goals as Safuwan Baharudin headed against the post before two back-to-back Hariss Harun headers were cleared off the line.
Stange's men were made to pay in the second half for their profligacy, complacency and lack of concentration as Macau relied on quick breaks. Alves Vinicio seized on a loose pass in the 53rd minute to set up Leong Ka Hang, who slotted past Hassan Sunny, before Baihakki Khaizan was caught in possession in the first minute of added time, and Niki Torrao broke clear to net the equaliser.
Revealing he "exploded" in the dressing room and would cancel the team's days-off to arrange more training sessions after the poor results, Stange said: "This draw feels like a defeat and everyone in our team feels that way. "Baihakki made two mistakes that were unacceptable as an experienced player. I have to address these mistakes even if it's made public. "I'm criticising the mistakes, I'm not being personal. I have to say the truth, and then we move on. "I don't know who I'm more disappointed with, the players who missed clear chances, or the players who made mistakes in defence. "There are about five weeks left, but we are confident of managing something."
Stange was encouraged by the return of key players such as Amri, Hariss and skipper Shahril Ishak, as well as the emergence of Sahil, Shahfiq and Faris. Amri, who scored in a record three Suzuki Cup finals, said: "It feels good to be back from injury. "I'm 100 per cent fit now, but I feel like I can still do more. "This draw is not what we were looking for, but we have been in this position before and we want to find our top form for the Suzuki Cup."
This article was first published on Oct 15, 2014.
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