Football: Sundram to continue Lions experiment

National coach V. Sundramoorthy (second from left) during a training session with his team at the Geylang Field on June 20, as part of the national team training day initiative which sees every Monday being set aside for the Lions to come together.
National coach V. Sundramoorthy (second from left) during a training session with his team at the Geylang Field on June 20, as part of the national team training day initiative which sees every Monday being set aside for the Lions to come together. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Despite recording two defeats and a win on their recent Japan tour, national caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy insists that he is not concerned with results and will continue to experiment with his squad.

Singapore were missing five key overseas-based players - Shahril Ishak, Safuwan Baharudin, Hariss Harun, Baihakki Khaizan and Hassan Sunny - with the absence of the latter trio particularly costly, as the Lions conceded six goals in their last three matches.

They lost to the Niigata University of Health and Welfare 2-3, beat Japan Soccer College 2-0 and fell to J-League outfit Albirex Niigata 0-3.

Goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari and forward Amy Recha Pristifana (Geylang International), as well as defender Abdil Qaiyyim (Home United) were all given run-outs by Sundram. And the coach vowed to keep exploring his options as he seeks to pin down his first XI .

He said: "We are all aware that our team are missing key players for the Japan tour and the Cambodia game (today).

"And we have one injured player (Faris Ramli), so we are giving opportunities to the other players who are playing in the S-League.

"Results are not important now. My key objective is the Suzuki Cup. We are looking at the players' performances and preparing ourselves for the Cup. Against Cambodia, I want to give other players who have travelled and trained with us for the last nine days a chance to be in an international 'A' game. This is a good platform for these players to express themselves."

The Lions will meet Cambodia this evening at Phnom Penh's National Olympic Stadium. In 16 previous clashes, Singapore have 13 wins.

Their only defeat was a 0-3 loss in the 1972 Jakarta Anniversary Tournament. But Sundram and his men, preparing for the AFF Suzuki Cup at the year-end, are far from complacent. The 50-year-old said: "We are aware of what the Cambodians are capable of. Playing in front of an expected crowd of 40,000 fans, they will always be motivated to do well."

Defender Madhu Mohana echoed: "Missing key players during this period is not ideal but I can see that the other players in the team are working hard to show what they are able to do and that helps to keep me and my other team-mates on our toes.

"The three matches in Japan allowed us to use different tactics against different opponents. We are looking forward to our match against Cambodia as that is where we can put what we learnt in Japan to the test."

Yogaraj Panditurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Sundram to continue Lions experiment'. Print Edition | Subscribe