Football: Singapore went to sleep, fumes Sundram

Despair for Singapore in extra time against Vietnam in Yangon. After two matches with new coach Sundram in charge, it is clear he favours the team soaking up pressure and defending deep before hitting on the counter.
Despair for Singapore in extra time against Vietnam in Yangon. After two matches with new coach Sundram in charge, it is clear he favours the team soaking up pressure and defending deep before hitting on the counter. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
Sundram has his job cut out getting his men ready for the AFF Cup. He urged them to learn to stay focused.
Sundram has his job cut out getting his men ready for the AFF Cup. He urged them to learn to stay focused. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Sundram laments Lions' lack of focus as they suffer 3-0 beating by Vietnam in extra time

AYA BANK CUP FINAL

Vietnam 3

Singapore 0 (after extra time)

A complete breakdown in extra time saw Singapore lose 0-3 to Vietnam in the AYA Bank Cup final yesterday, as V. Sundramoorthy's men came up short at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.

Having defended resolutely for 90 minutes, the team inexplicably switched off and conceded three goals in 30 minutes of extra time.

Within 30 seconds of the restart, Vietnam were ahead, Le Cong Vinh latching on to a Nguyen Van Quyet pass and firing past Hassan Sunny.

The duo combined to make it 2-0 eight minutes later, as Vinh's shot was deflected into Quyet's path, and he finished from close range. Dinh Thanh Trung made it 3-0 on the counter as Singapore poured forward in search of a goal.

The collapse was uncharacteristic, especially with Sundram known for setting up well-organised sides.

The Singapore coach said: "Vietnam are a good team, and I felt that we held (up) well for 90 minutes.

"In the first minute of extra time, we went to sleep and the game changed totally. Ninety minutes of hard work, after that they just took their foot off the pedal. We can do a lot of work on that.

"In football, we need to stay focused. This is something they must be mentally ready (for). When they switch off for a few seconds, it's where you get punished. It's about the mental strength."

It also means Singapore have failed to beat their Vietnamese rivals in their last 12 meetings, their last win a 1-0 victory coming in the 1998 Tiger Cup final.

As was the case in their 1-0 win over Myanmar last Friday, the Lions were happy to sit back and hit on the counter, ceding possession to a dominant Vietnam side.

Coach Nguyen Huu Thang's side had much of the ball but struggled to create any clear-cut chances in normal time.

But the Lions also struggled in attack. Midfielder Safuwan Baharudin, who started up front as the lone striker, was a peripheral figure with his best effort a header off Madhu Mohana's 74th-minute long throw that was cleared off the line.

It was clear Sundram was holding out for penalties, and it was going to plan for his side until their shocking extra-time meltdown.

After two games in charge, what is also clear is the football style that will define Sundram's Singapore.

Against both Myanmar and Vietnam, the Lions showed they are a well-drilled unit, one prepared to surrender possession and defend deep with two banks of players.

In fact, it was not unusual to see the entire Singapore team in their own half denying their opponents space and time on the ball.

Even if opponents find a way past the Lions' backline, there is goalkeeper Hassan, who pulled off top-drawer saves in both games.

Goals will likely come from counter-attacks, launched by long passes from midfielders Izzdin Shafiq and Azhar Sairudin to find wingers Faris Ramli and Gabriel Quak.

Set pieces will also be an important source. Against Vietnam, Quak had a golden opportunity to put his team ahead after a well-worked free-kick routine, similar to Afiq Yunos' goal for Sundram's former team Tampines Rovers against Mohun Bagan in the Asian Football Confederation Cup.

In all, it is similar to Sundram's 2013 Malaysia Super League-winning LionsXII side, one which conceded just 15 goals in 22 games.

That said, Singapore were missing the bite up front provided by Khairul Amri, who is still finding his form after a long injury layoff.

Playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman, nursing a hairline fracture in his right fibula, could provide composure in midfield.

But it seems Sundram, appointed 10 days ago, has a lot on his hands as he strives to get the team ready for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in November.

Earlier, hosts Myanmar, who will co-host the Suzuki Cup with the Philippines, beat Hong Kong 3-0 in the third-place play-off.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore 'went to sleep''. Print Edition | Subscribe