Football: Possession the Sundram focus

New national coach V. Sundramoorthy (fifth from left) during training yesterday. The Lions will have one last session on home soil this morning before flying to Myanmar tomorrow.
New national coach V. Sundramoorthy (fifth from left) during training yesterday. The Lions will have one last session on home soil this morning before flying to Myanmar tomorrow. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Style an evolving factor for new coach as he assesses strongest contenders for Myanmar

He is known for his pragmatic approach to football, with an emphasis on an organised defence and earning results at all costs.

Yet judging by V. Sundramoorthy's first three training sessions as the caretaker national coach, it appears that the tactician has evolved his coaching style.

For the third straight day of training since his appointment on Friday, the Lions practised drills that emphasised team possession and making full use of the width of the pitch to penetrate.

After yesterday's session at Geylang Field, Sundram said: "Every day we try to get the team in shape, and try to let the boys understand the tactical awareness of the game.

"The most important thing is to try to keep the ball, and not lose it cheaply. Secondly, positional play. Those are the two things I want to emphasise."

CORNERSTONE OF HIS STRATEGY

The most important thing is to try to keep the ball, and not lose it cheaply. Secondly, positional play. Those are the two things I want to emphasise.

V. SUNDRAMOORTHY, national football coach, on the footballing philosophy he plans to inculcate among the Lions.

Under Sundram, the pitch was a kaleidoscope of movement. In one particular drill, a team of attackers, under pressure from a team of defenders, attempted to bulge the net.

While that took place, a third group, taken by ex-national captain Fandi Ahmad, practised switching play from one flank to another through diagonal balls. The three teams were then rotated.

There were no signs of the long throw-ins and set-piece routines that epitomised the LionsXII style under Sundram, who led the now-defunct team to Malaysia Super League glory in 2013.

That well-drilled but defensive side conceded just 15 goals in 22 games.

But while his predecessor Bernd Stange wanted the Lions to play tiki-taka, which was ultimately unsuccessful, the new man in charge wants the players to be competent in mixing short and long passes, as long as possession is kept.

Also, the 50-year-old tactician is pragmatic in retaining the use of attackers to deliver quick balls into the box.

This was seen in training yesterday when the likes of Shahril Ishak, Amy Recha and Hafiz Sujad dribbled past dummies to square for an onrushing team-mate to score.

Sundram also acknowledged the time constraint before the quadrangular AYA Bank Cup in Myanmar, which starts on Friday.

Accordingly, he arranged for a specific group of players to attend 45 minutes of extra training before team training began; defenders on Sunday, and attackers yesterday.

Sundram said: "Because I was only appointed on Friday, we (coaching team) don't have enough time to come up with a lot of training.

"(Hence) we just work extra to let the boys understand how we're going to play, and what we want in the game."

With the Lions having just one last training session on home soil this morning before flying to Myanmar tomorrow, Sundram said he has yet to come up with a starting line-up from the 22-man squad, stating that the players should impress him and "pick themselves to be in the first XI".

He said: "Some of the boys are giving me some thoughts.

"We need to come up with a solution and the best XI. They are all doing well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline 'Possession the Sundram focus'. Print Edition | Subscribe