Momentum lost after half-time substitution

Momentum lost after half-time substitution

Yes, Baihakki Khaizan was on a yellow card and had committed a clumsy foul just before half-time that came dangerously close to getting him sent off.

But I would not have taken out the Singapore defender at half-time of the Lions' 1-2 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup defeat by Thailand.

I could understand Singapore coach Bernd Stange's concern.

But, as one of the most experienced players in the team, Baihakki should know how to subsequently control his tackles and not get sent off.

For me, that half-time substitution changed the game.

By switching Baihakki with central midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin, it meant the Lions' midfield linchpin Hariss Harun had to drop back to play in central defence.

And with that, Singapore conceded the midfield battle, handing the initiative to Thailand for the second half of the clash.

Up until then, Singapore played well, creating chances and troubling the Thai defence.

They were not intimidated by Thailand's recent good form and certainly did not deserve to lose.

Hariss and his midfield partner Shahdan Sulaiman combined brilliantly. He did a lot of defensive work, allowing Shahdan to push forward and support the strikers.

When Zulfahmi came on, Singapore lost momentum and Thailand started to keep the ball more.

I don't want to sound harsh but I expected more from Zulfahmi. The role players need to make an impact - they are not there to make up the numbers.

I was also surprised that Fazrul Nawaz, the joint-top local scorer in the S-League with 10 goals, did not get a run-out late on, when some players were visibly tired.

That said, there were some positives for the Lions despite the loss. Khairul Amri had an exceptional game up front. Aside from the goal, he was everywhere and put the Thai defence under pressure constantly.

He was also well-supported by Shahril Ishak and Faris Ramli. Some fans were frustrated with Faris but I thought he did well.

He had pace, was always in the danger zones and did everything right except his final ball. Shaiful Esah showed how lethal his delivery was when he crossed for Amri to score, and the team need to get him forward more.

I believe the team will get better with each game, just like we did in 2012 when we won the Cup. All that matters now is the next game against Myanmar.

The Lions need to forget about the Thailand loss and the final group game against Malaysia.

Raddy Avramovic is a good coach but his team did not impress me in their 0-0 draw against 10-man Malaysia.

Singapore created many chances on Sunday night and, if they build on that performance, they will beat Myanmar.

This article was first published on November 25, 2014.
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