Baihakki keen to tackle task of negating Kyaw and Kyi

Under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons a few days ago, Baihakki Khaizan needs to be at his ball-clearing best for Singapore's hopes to remain alive in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.

A barrage of long balls likely awaits the lanky centre-back when a well-drilled Myanmar enter the National Stadium tonight.

The 30-year-old cannot afford a mis-step, as a booking rules him out of Saturday's final Group B clash against arch-foes Malaysia.

A more immediate concern is 21-year-old ace Kyaw Ko Ko, whose Wikipedia page aptly describes him as "the best striker in Myanmar".

Coach Raddy Avramovic's tactics revolve around the Yangon United youngster, tasked with latching onto diagonal balls played into space behind the opposing backline.

The 1.7m livewire may have looked short of fitness in Sunday's goal-less draw against Malaysia, but he has proven his calibre against regional opposition. His five-goal tally at the 2011 SEA Games led the country's Under-23s to a surprise bronze medal.

If he is beaten for pace, Baihakki - a veteran with 112 caps to his name- has vowed to stick by his uncompromising tackles to ensure a clean sheet.

He said: "I can't approach the game thinking about a possible suspension. (Imagine how I would feel) if I don't go for a tackle and Myanmar score (as a result).

"As defenders, we face that situation every minute."

To his dismay, the Johor Darul Takzim player was hauled off at half-time in the 1-2 loss to Thailand, after being cautioned for a rash tackle early on.

He and his team-mates will do well not to commit easily to the speedy Myanmar players, who defend deep before launching counter-attacks down the flanks.

Described as a "massively compact" team by Singapore coach Bernd Stange, their style is quite similar to that adopted by Avramovic for the Lions in the past.

"I don't expect Myanmar to dominate. We have to be patient and shouldn't be nervous if we don't score an early goal," noted Stange, who is facing murmurings of discontent from fans.

"The question is, can we create enough chances to win? It is up to my players to answer that."

The hosts will need another all-action showing from Shahdan Sulaiman. The central midfielder impressed with his distribution against the Thais, but has to be on his guard against AFF Player of the Year nominee Kyi Lin.

As an alternative to their long-ball strategy, the 22-year-old winger - who enjoys cutting inside - is charged with supplying through passes to club-mate Kyaw.

Singapore will do well to be just as flexible between Stange's pass-and-move system and the direct approach that led to Khairul Amri's goal against Thailand.

This article was first published on November 26, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.