AFF Suzuki Cup 2016

Football: Sundram's emphasis switches to attack

Lions need to score in must-win match against Indonesia

Winless and goalless, the mission for Singapore could not be simpler in their final Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup group match: Go big with goals, or go home.

For their past two games, the Lions' major strength has been their stout defence, but tomorrow, needing a win against Indonesia to reach the semi-finals, they must instead rely on their barren attack to finally deliver.

While caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy's style is to prevent an open, free-flowing game of end-to-end attacking action, it has not been popular with the fans, who thirst for some swagger and entertainment.

However, vice-captain Hariss Harun and the Lions are prepared to continue to be tactically disciplined and play according to plan.

The 26-year-old, who is expected to skipper the team with out-of-form Shahril Ishak on the bench, said: "We just carry out what we are told to. Coach wants us to play in a certain way because of the opposition and we just went out to do that to the best of our abilities.

"For us players, what we are told, we just try to carry out."

The Johor Darul Takzim midfielder also firmly believes that labelling Sundram's tactics as "parking the bus" is superficial, especially after Tuesday's 0-1 loss to Thailand.

Hariss Harun shooting against the Philippines last Saturday. He stresses the need for an early goal against Indonesia.
Hariss Harun shooting against the Philippines last Saturday. He stresses the need for an early goal against Indonesia. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

COACH SETS THE AGENDA

We just carry out what we are told to. Coach wants us to play in a certain way because of the opposition and we just went out to do that to the best of our abilities.

HARISS HARUN, on the need to play to a plan.

He explained: "It was disappointing to concede in the dying minutes. The body language of the players... the boys slumped to the ground after putting in so much hard work. We were defensive but we went out to score. We had enough chances to put at least one goal away.

"That was the positive, we played counter-attacking football, unlike what people said about us sitting back the whole game and parking the bus. That's part of the strategy to draw (Thailand) out and hit them on the counter."

Sundram is calling on the team to deliver another tactically disciplined performance but also to be more clinical in attack.

Although Indonesia are sitting at the bottom of Group A on goal difference, their cavalier approach has brought them four goals in two matches so far, in a 2-4 loss to Thailand and a 2-2 draw with the Philippines.

Said the 51-year-old: "Let's face it, they have very good attackers - Boaz (Salossa), Andik (Vermansyah), Rizki Pora on the left flank and Lerby Eliandry, who is good in the air.

"They are all good ball players, but we will try to stop them from scoring.

"We need the odd goal to qualify and we will pop up with that goal, like we did against Cambodia, and make it to the semis."

In Singapore's final friendly before the AFF Cup, the Lions beat Cambodia with a goal from midfielder Yasir Hanapi.

Hariss is sure the Garudas' attack can be thwarted, saying: "Tactically we are not easy to break down and we can continue that way.

"But we still need to navigate, to find more opportunities to score goals. We just need to let that first goal go in and the confidence will come back.

"We are putting in the yards, covering a lot of ground but that little bit extra (is missing). The players are a little bit down. Even after the Philippines game, we were thinking that, 'Hey, we should have won that game'.

"We cannot (afford to) sit back or be too defensive. (Instead of letting) the minutes go by, we need to get that first goal as early as possible without being exposed, because we know how fast the Indonesian players are.

"We need to be patient, wait for the right time, and when the chance presents itself, we need to take it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'Sundram's emphasis switches to attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe