Lions' weaknesses exposed by Hong Kong's swift counter-attacks

Lions' weaknesses exposed by Hong Kong's swift counter-attacks

HONG KONG 2 (Xu Deshuai 7, Ju Yingzhi 53)

SINGAPORE 1 (Shahril Ishak 90+3-pen)

The clock is ticking and the signs are worrying.

Still looking for only their second win of the year ahead of their Suzuki Cup title defence starting next month, Singapore lost 2-1 at the Mongkok Stadium yesterday to a Hong Kong side who play a fast counter-attacking style similar to Malaysia and Thailand.

Post-match, national football coach Bernd Stange told The New Paper that while losing 2-1 was the right result following his team's display, he was "not so disappointed with the result and performance".

The 66-year-old German said: "We dominated in an away match, but Hong Kong delivered from their counter-attacks."

However, he admitted that with the Suzuki Cup being played on home soil, the Lions have no choice but to address what is lacking in order to deliver a successful title defence.

1 LACK OF CONCENTRATION

As early as the seventh minute, Shahdan Sulaiman played a careless backpass, which put Safuwan Baharudin in trouble as Xu Deshuai pounced to blast past Izwan Mahbud.

Eight minutes into the second half, Shahdan was caught out again as he failed to cut out a through-pass, allowing Xu to set up Ju Yingzhi to round Izwan for the second.

Stange said: "These are mistakes we shouldn't make even in a youth game.

"Shahdan did try to come back into the game, passing, linking up play and initiating attacks, but there was another mistake in the second half."

"And it wasn't just him. There were mistakes from other experienced players in every minute of the second half until the second goal. "Our experienced players should not be making this kind of mistakes."

2 LACK OF PACE

While Singapore dominated possession in parts, they were torn apart by Hong Kong's swift counter-attacks.

Hong Kong could have added a third when the irrepressible Xu scorched the right flank to set up Chan Man Fai in the 64th minute, only for the forward to blast his point-blank shot over,

Left back Shaiful Esah has a wondrous left foot but was never known for his pace. Right back Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman is a quicker option, but lacks the experience in defence.

Hafiz Abu Sujad and Ismadi Mukhtar are decent fullbacks at club level but unproven on the international stage.

"I cannot make the older players like Shahril (Ishak) and Shaiful faster," retorted Stange.

"These are the best players we have and we will train hard and do our best together to make it work."

3 LACK OF FINISHING

Singapore's goal drought against Hong Kong under Stange lasted 270 minutes, until Shahril scored with the last kick of the match, a penalty after Safuwan was felled in the box.

Young guns like Sahil Suhaimi, Shahfiq Ghani and Faris Ramli tried their best to probe, but did not manage to threaten Yapp Hung Fai.

After the break, experienced heads like Shahril, Khairul Amri and Fazrul Nawaz were more incisive.

Stange said: "I'm not worried because we created chances. Players like Shahril, Amri and Shaiful have just returned from injury and had not played for one or two months. They will get better and the team will play better and get better results too."

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