ASIAN CUP QUALIFIER (GROUP A)
OMAN 2 - (Qasim Said 15, Eid Al-Farsi 45)
SINGAPORE - He strode into the press conference room looking assured, smiling even.
If Singapore coach Bernd Stange was smarting after being well-beaten by Oman, he was definitely not showing it.
Straight off the bat, minutes after the 2-0 loss at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night, the 65-year-old said: "You will see a positive coach even though we lost today.Today, we have a clear picture of how our team are going to play in the future.
"We tried to dominate the game. It was not as bad as the result suggests. It was not a disaster. "We were unlucky, we dominated possession but could not find a way to launch dangerous attacks."
The possession statistics were in Singapore's favour, but that was simply because the Lions interchanged numerous passes at the back, unable to find any space beyond the Omani forwards busy on patrol.
On Wednesday night, 5,849 fans at the stadium and many others who watched the game "live" on TV witnessed Lions coach says loss to Oman no disaster, calls for time Stange's first competitive outing as Lions coach.
His team started brightly, playing the short passing game the German has introduced since taking over in May.
Since taking over the reins, Stange has insisted on a possession-based game, with the team building play from the back and closing down opponents quickly whenever they have the ball.
But, as Oman coach Paul Le Guen said in his postmatch interview, the Lions still lacked technique to mix it with the big boys from Asia.
Worryingly, throughout the 90 minutes, the home side failed to muster one meaningful attack.
The Lions had just two free-kick efforts on goal - one by Qiu Li and the other from Shahfiq Ghani - and both were off target.
Stange was animated on the touchline for almost the entire game, clearly frustrated.
Even if the result matched Singapore's best showing against Oman on home soil.
The Lions lost 3-1 in 2003, 2-0 in 2004 and 4-1 in 2009. And who can forget the 7-0 humbling in Muscat in 2004?
Oman are eighth in Asia, while Singapore are 28th, so the loss shouldn't come as a big shock.
The gulf in class was obvious, especially when one considers the visitors were out of season.
Stange's mission is very much a work in progress.
He said so himself, when he called for more time as he plots the Lions' progress up the rankings.
He said: "We dominated possession today but couldn't find the killer pass.The next step for us is to play more aggressive, attacking football. I am not disappointed. It takes at least half a year to change a team, but with time and good planning, we can get there."
There are friendlies to come against China (Sept 6) and Hong Kong (Sept 10), before the team's next qualifier at home to Syria on Oct 15.
It will be unfair to judge Stange's Lions after one game, especially against much stronger opponents.
But even he will admit that the team will have to do better on Oct 15. If they do, that will mean he's making progress.
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