Singapore national captain Hariss Harun opening the scoring for the Lions in their 2-0 friendly win over Mongolia on 12 October, 2018.
Singapore national football coach Fandi Ahmad had promised that his charges will surprise their more fancied opponents at next month’s Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
Judging from the Lions’ unimpressive 2-0 win over Mongolia in a friendly at Bishan Stadium on Friday (12 October), he has plenty of fine-tuning to do to make his team capable of springing upsets at the regional tournament.
Mongolia are ranked 186th in the Fifa world rankings – 20 spots below the Lions – and it showed, as they offered little other than physical challenges and constant harrying.
Yet the Lions failed to dominate on the wet pitch, as precious few of their passes were incisive enough to break down the Mongolian defence.
Mongolia coach Michael Weiss easily pinpointed the Lions’ lack of creativity as their possible Achilles heel come the Suzuki Cup. The former Philippines national coach said after the match, “Both of their goals came from our players’ mistakes, so the match could have ended 0-0. I think the Lions’ are just lacking a bit in their technique.”
While the Lions’ defence was steady enough, and lone striker Ikhsan Fandi’s tireless movement was commendable, it was the midfielders which will give Fandi the biggest headache, as they struggled to provide the ammunition for the striker.
Captain Hariss Harun provided a sturdy shield in front of the defenders, but the other four midfielders – Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi, Iqbal Hussain and Gabriel Quak – frustrated the fans with poor decisions and wayward techniques.
“You can see that our finishing needs more work,” said Fandi. “Our defence is okay, so now we have to focus on getting the passing right and finishing whatever chances we have.”
Still, there were glimpses of slickness amid their huffing and puffing. In the 30th minute, the Lions finally found a rhythm as they probed their opponents’ back-line, deftly working the ball from left to right, before Iqbal found himself free just inside the box. Sadly, the 25-year-old dragged his shot just wide of the goal post.
When the opening goal finally came in the 70th minute, it was predictably from a dead-ball situation. Izzdin’s free-kick from the right appeared to drift over the touchline, but centre-back Safuwan Baharudin managed to head the ball back towards the goalmouth, where Hariss reacted quickest to stab the ball home.
Quak finally added a touch of class to the scrappy match in the 82nd minute, catching Mongolia goalkeeper Enkhtaivan Munkh-Erdene off his line with a deft lob from outside the penalty area.
Yet the Lions’ performance would not have worried any of their Suzuki Cup opponents if they happened to be scouting the match. Nonetheless, Fandi insisted that, even if they find it hard to score, his players have to rely on their tactical discipline to frustrate opponents.
“That’s what we are good at, and that’s what we must do in order to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said.
The Lions will next head to Phnom Penh where they will play Cambodia in a friendly on Tuesday. They will then embark on a two-week training camp in Osaka, Japan, before returning home to face Indonesia in their Suzuki Cup opener on 9 November.
Singapore are drawn in Group B of the tournament, together with Indonesia, Philippines, Timor Leste and Thailand. The top two sides advance into the semi-finals.
The four-time champions have failed to reach the last four in the past two editions of the biennial Cup.
More Info: sg.news.yahoo.com