Stange sees positives in loss

Singapore coach Bernd Stange.
PHOTO: Reuters

Even after seeing most of his Lions underperform and lose, albeit to a Syria team 20 places above them in the Fifa rankings, national coach Bernd Stange remained defiant.

He insisted the Lions are on the right track.

"I will not allow anyone to be negative about our performance today, not today, because we cannot deliver anything more at this stage that we are," declared the 67-year-old German after the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier last night.

"We did everything right but... we are unable to bring the 1-1 home. A few seconds, a minute, we missed, and that's the international standard. We have to learn and improve.

"All players gave 100 per cent, they gave what they have in terms of their mind, fitness and ability, exactly what I wanted.

"They were able to deliver, but the qualities of a few teams are too good for us.

"We are third in the table and still on track for the 2019 Asian Cup, so I want everyone to be positive to help us get there."

However, as is increasingly apparent in recent international matches, especially at home, only a handful of Lions showed up when it mattered.

CONTRAST

While the Lions impressed with a counter-attacking game in the 1-0 defeat by Syria in Oman, and even beat them 2-1 at Jalan Besar two years ago, they struggled to create chances last night at the National Stadium.

And when they did equalise, they failed to hold on to the point with just minutes left.

In fact, they have also gone behind 18 times in 34 games under Stange and managed to fight back only twice (2-2 against Guam and 2-1 against Bangladesh), and never in a competitive match.

Winger Christopher van Huizen, who got his first international start last night in front of 7,468 fans, after Faris Ramli suffered from food poisoning, was one of them with his direct runs and teasing crosses.

But some, like right back Nazrul Ahmad Nazari and central midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin, could not live with Syria's frightening pace and physicality.

Syria striker Omar Khribin profited from chaos in the Singapore defence to head in Mahmoud Al Mawas' right-wing cross after just 20 minutes.

Centre back Madhu Mohana, often a rock in defence, lost his cool and shoved the two-goal hero Omar in the face after being persistently kicked for 54 minutes.

Utility man Safuwan Baharudin was deployed up front instead of Fazrul Nawaz or Sahil Suhaimi who are forwards by trade, but he often lacked support.

His 89th-minute penalty equaliser was the hosts' first shot on target.

Omar then capitalised on the Lions' lack of defensive discipline and concentration to slot home a stoppage-time winner.

Yet, Stange thought it appropriate to praise his players, and said: "I think we made an excellent decision in our team decision, I think it was risky, but it worked.

"We are looking for players who will be in the prime for the 2019 Asian Cup.

"I think the starting line-up and substitutes are totally correct, there are no more other options."

However, the fact remains Singapore are third in Group E and will proceed to the next round of Asian Cup qualifiers if Afghanistan lose to Japan, as expected, next March.

Stange urges all the stakeholders to pull in the same direction as he targets more international matches and hopes more players can play abroad - but in better competitions than the Malaysian Super League.

BY THE NUMBERS

3

The Lions are third in Group E and will qualify for the next round of Asian Cup qualifiers if Afghanistan lose to Japan next March.

TEAMS & PLAYERS' RATINGS

SINGAPORE: Izwan Mahbud 7, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari 5 (Faritz Abdul Hameed 46, 6), Madhu Mohana 5, Baihakki Khaizan 6, Shakir Hamzah 5, Christopher van Huizen 6.5 (Fazrul Nawaz 78), Izzdin Shafiq 5.5, Hariss Harun 6, Zulfahmi Arifin 5, Hafiz Abu Sujad 5.5 (Shaiful Esah 70), Safuwan Baharudin 6.5

SYRIA: Ibrahim Alma, Alaa Al Shbli, Ahmad Al Salih, Hamdi Al Masri, Nadim Sabagh, Mahmoud Al Mawas, Zahir Mdani, Osama Omari (Abdelrazaq Al Hussain 65), Fahd Youssef, Sanharib Malki (Nasouh Al Nakdali 82), Omar Khribin

Attendance: 7,468

Referee: Kim Jong Hyeok (South Korea)

TNP Man of the Match: Omar Khribin (Syria)

BLOW BY BLOW

20 min

GOAL! Singapore 0 Syria 1!

Mahmoud Al Mawas drives a cross in from the right and Omar Khribin steals in at the back post to nod in the opener. 28

NEARLY AN OWN GOAL

Ahmad Al Salih almost slices in an own-goal equaliser for Singapore off a cross by the lively Christopher van Huizen. 31

OFF THE POST!

Baihakki Khaizan dawdles on the ball, Omar pounces but sees his fierce strike come off the upright.

47

VOLLEYBALL SERVE

Syria goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma uses an underhand volleyball serve to launch the ball into the Singapore half.

51

LIONS' BEST MOVE

Baihakki spreads it wide to overlapping right back Faritz Abdul Hameed, who cuts it back to van Huizen. The winger's cross is good and headed across goal by Safuwan, but Hafiz Abu Sujad just can't reach it in time to stab home.

54

RED CARD!

Madhu Mohana lashes out at Omar and is dismissed.

83

OFF THE POST!

Nasouh Al Nakdali's long-range shot beats Izwan Mahbud but not the woodwork.

89

GOAL! Singapore 1 Syria 1!

Safuwan slams in the equaliser from the spot after Alaa Al Shbli handles Shaiful Esah's corner in the box.

90+3

GOAL! Singapore 1 Syria 2!

Omar breaks the hosts' hearts as he shows class in a crowded box, shifting the ball from his right foot to the left before slotting in the late winner.

OTHER RESULT

CAMBODIA 0

JAPAN 2 (Khuon Laboravy 51-og, Keisuke Honda 90)


This article was first published on Nov 18, 2015.
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