The Bernd Stange era of Singapore football looks set for a pleasant ending. Before a crowd of 5,280 at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, the German led his Lions to a 2-1 win over Myanmar in his penultimate game as national coach.
Goals from Shahril Ishak and Fazrul Nawaz were enough to see off the industrious visitors, who scored through Suan Lam Mang.
Coupled with Japan's 5-0 win over Afghanistan in the World Cup qualifiers, a result which means Singapore are through to the 2019 Asian Cup third qualifying round regardless of the outcome of next Tuesday's match against the Afghans, Stange's reign looks set to end on a positive note.
Stange, who was defensive about his record in the pre-match press conference, had a sunnier disposition yesterday after the win.
Wearing a smile throughout the 10 minutes he faced he media, the Lions coach said: "We saw a good football match, more than 20 opportunities from both sides. It was up and down for the first minute... the fans will come back."
It's a pity the feel-good atmosphere is too little too late, at a time when despite their Fifa ranking of 148, higher than the 165 when Stange assumed his role in 2013, fan confidence is at a low.
BERND STANGE'S RECORD (FROM MAY 15, 2013)
SINGAPORE'S WORLD RANKING
Singapore fan Marc Seah said: "It's a good thing that he is leaving. The results speak for themselves. "
Don Chua, 42, said: "The results are not going anywhere, the improvements in rankings are negligible... it doesn't justify the kind of money spent."
Their disappointment is understandable. When he took over, Stange promised to deliver a brand of slick attacking football characterised by short passing and high-intensity pressing.
But apart from a couple of results - a 2-1 win over Syria in 2013 and the 0-0 draw against Japan last June - Stange had little impact.
In the dreadful 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, hosts and defending champions Singapore were knocked out in the group stage.
There was also the fallout with former Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar during last year's SEA Games, which some said contributed to the team's group-stage exit.
As he has done before, Stange alluded to these limitations yesterday. "You saw all the problems we have. We have a hard and long way to improve such areas, a lot to do."
"Myanmar have resources, a national training centre, a lot of things and finally, they qualify for the U-20 World Cup. We have to follow, if we don't follow, if there's not more desire, we have stagnation."
Ultimately, performances on the pitch are what fans want, and Stange scores poorly in that regard.
Yesterday, ironically, it was the visitors who played with the kind of attacking verve Stange preached.
One positive factor of Stange's reign was that he handed international debuts to youngsters Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi and Christopher van Huizen, among others.
He said: "I promise you, everybody, I gave my best in (the) three years. I made mistakes, players made mistakes, but I give my best every single day for your football."