Reality bites

Qiu Li grimacing after missing a free-kick.

GROUP A

SINGAPORE 0

OMAN 2 - (Qasim Said 15, Eid Al-Farsi 45)

SINGAPORE - Four shots, two from free-kicks, two from desperate distances - and none on target.

Bernd Stange's new-look Singapore side started brightly and had the greater share of possession against Oman in their Group A Asian Cup qualifier at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night, but the night ended with a whimper for the Lions.

They fell 2-0 to an Oman side that did not have to get out of second gear, as Paul Le Guen's side inflicted the second successive defeat for the Lions in the competition.

Stange wants to play a dominating style of passand- move football, but he conceded that fitness will be a key factor if his charges are to see his plan to fruition.

Undeterred by the loss, the German said after the game: "I'm not disappointed with the performance, (Oman) deserved to win, they were physically stronger.

"We didn't have enough physical power, to make changes, to score that goal, to earn corner-kicks and free-kicks. If we had the physical power we could have done it."

This was Stange's first competitive game in charge of Singapore after his appointment in May.

Against opponents who are one of the continent's fast-rising football nations, it was always going to be tough, even if the hosts had talked about a win in the build-up to the game.

They had a mountain to climb when Qasim Said netted the opener in the 15th minute.

The mortal blow came just before half-time, when Eid Al-Farsi found the back of the net with a sweet strike from 25 metres.

The Middle Eastern side came out stronger in the early part of the second period, running the Lions ragged with their movement and slick passing, but eventually, the pace petered out.

Efficient

"We were average in the first half, but efficient. We played better in the second half, controlled the tempo of the game, but strangely, couldn't score. But the most important thing was the result," said Oman coach Paul Le Guen.

With his players in off-season and just after a month of fasting during Ramadan, fitness was also a concern for the Frenchman.

It was clearly a bigger issue for the home side. Said Stange: "I had to make changes (substitutions) for players who just didn't have any more power to go on - and I actually needed to make more."

It was a fact not lost on the players.

"Fitness was a key difference between Oman and us," said Lions' midfielder Hariss Harun.

"To play such a high-tempo passing game, you always have to move, and we definitely need more fitness."

Hariss acknowledged that training sessions will surely see more fitness work, but also hoped for more matches against high-level opponents like Oman.

Stange has already given players fitness work to do in their own time, and has even started measuring weight and body fat percentage of players, but he called for patience and time.

"What we need is time, and good planning as we follow the Football Association of Singapore strategy - it is the way to the international standard.

"We can't do it in a very short time, it takes at least half a year to build a national team," said the 65-year-old, who previously coached Belarus.

"We will continue till the end of the year and come up with a strategy to run the national team."

Singapore face Syria on Oct 15 at home in their next Asian Cup qualifier, and Stange was defiant.

He said: "Against Syria, we will have a chance - we will always have a chance."

SINGAPORE (PLAYERS' RATINGS): Izwan Mahbud 6, Faritz Abdul Hameed 5, Baihakki Khaizan 6, Safuwan Baharudin 7, Hafiz Abu Sujad 5, Hariss Harun 7.5, Isa Halim 6.5 (Noh Rahman 82), Indra Sahdan 6 (Anumanthan Mohan Kumar 70), Shahril Ishak 6.5, Shahfiq Ghani 5.5, Qiu Li 5 (Adam Swandi 59)

OMAN: Faiyz Rusheidi, Saad Mukhani, Jaber Owaisi, Abdul Sallam Mukhaini, Hassan Mudhafar, Raed Saleh (Ali Nahar 83), Eid Al-Farsi, Ahmed Mubarak, Fahad Khamis Rashid, Qasim Said (Ismail Al-Ajmi 63), Abdul Aziz Muqbali (Yaqoob Al-Qasmi 90).

TNP Man of the match: Eid Al-Farsi (Oman)


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