Suzuki Cup: Malaysia trump S'pore in steel and experience




(Khairul Amri 83)


(Safee Sali 61, Safiq Rahim 90+3-pen, Indra Mahayuddin 90+4)

1 Where did Singapore lose the game?

SUNDRAM: What we lacked was steel. There was no Mustafic Fahrudin, no Isa Halim or no Aleksandar Duric even, players who would go into challenges and give the team a bit of a physical edge.

Those players would put their bodies on the line, and stick it to the opponents from time to time, too.

When we won the Suzuki Cup two years ago, we all saw how Mustafic and Isa stepped up when Hariss Harun got injured.

They were like a brick wall in midfield.

We had a solid defensive block, together with centre backs Baihakki Khaizan and Safuwan Baharudin, who were on form. That won us the title two years ago, and it was missing this time round.

2 Did the Lions deserve to go out?

Singapore were unlucky to lose to Thailand in the first group game because of that late penalty from an unfortunate handball, but the Lions fully deserved to win their second match against Myanmar.

But the most important game was this one. It was quite even, but Malaysia had two clear chances to score, when Safee Sali hit the post in the first half and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha had an effort cleared off the line in the second.

I felt the late penalty awarded by the referee was a harsh call.

This kind of nudging happens all the time in games.

I was surprised the referee gave it, especially considering it was already the 92nd minute. Not many referees would.

Hariss was great and Safuwan and Shakir Hamzah did well too, as did Khairul Amri upfront.

But I can't say much for the others.

And that's what you get when you have only a few players performing, as opposed to having the whole team be on song.

3 Did Bernd Stange's decision to replace the injured Shahdan Sulaiman with attacking midfielder Shahril Ishak backfire?

Sundram: I think so.

Everybody knows Shahril is more productive when he plays behind a striker, and maybe a different option could have been chosen. Last night, Shahril had to do a lot of battling and running off the ball, which is definitely not his game.

It also didn't help us that the wingers weren't productive.

They lacked penetration and were shut down so easily.

4 What gave Malaysia the edge?

They had more experienced players.

You look at their line-up, and I feel their senior players gave them stability.

Players like Shukor Adan (51 caps), Norshahrul (47 caps), Safee (64 caps), Safiq Rahim (54 caps) are all seasoned internationals, and they weren't cowed by the occasion.

I also felt Malaysia's 11 had more balance than the Lions.

5 So, what's next for the Lions?

Stange must take the positives from this tournament.

Youngsters like Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi, and even the Amirul Adli, 18, were introduced to fans for the first time.

Look at the incident where Amirul complained to the referee that Azamuddin Akil punched him. When you're young, it's normal that older opponents will try to push you around.

But they will learn and get better.

This article was first published on November 30, 2014.
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