Football: Three points a must for Lions

Singapore's Safuwan Baharudin getting the better of Turkmenistan's Gurbangeldi Batyrov in their Asian Cup qualifier at Jalan Besar Stadium last month. While the Lions have yet to win playing their new 3-4-3 formation, they have shown promise - scorin
Singapore's Safuwan Baharudin getting the better of Turkmenistan's Gurbangeldi Batyrov in their Asian Cup qualifier at Jalan Besar Stadium last month. While the Lions have yet to win playing their new 3-4-3 formation, they have shown promise - scoring in each of their last three games.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Sundram to keep offensive strategy in pressure-cooker clash away to Turkmenistan

Football teams generally adopt defensive tactics when playing away from home, particularly when facing tough opponents.

But Singapore coach V. Sundram Moorthy has vowed to stick to his new-found attacking guns when his 162nd-ranked Lions face world No. 136 Turkmenistan in Ashgabat today.

Since taking charge of the team last year, Sundram, a former star striker for club and country, has earned a reputation for cautious tactics, which have yielded just 10 goals in 18 matches, and not more than one per match.

But with pressure mounting on the Lions to score goals to keep their floundering 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign alive, the 52-year-old finally made the switch three matches ago, deploying a 3-4-3 formation for the first time since taking over the reins.

The transformation began on Aug 31, in a 1-1 draw with Hong Kong in a friendly. From overlapping full-backs to neat passing triangles to high pressing and killer through balls, the Lions demonstrated something that had been sorely absent in recent years.

A few days later, that same offensive strategy was on display when the hosts carved out nine chances and attacked Turkmenistan at Jalan Besar. That Asian Cup Group E qualifier ended in a 1-1 draw.

  • 10

  • Goals scored by the Lions in the 18 games since national coach V. Sundram Moorthy took charge.

Last Thursday in Doha, they were beaten 3-1 in a warm-up friendly by Qatar, a side ranked 77 rungs above Singapore.

Sundram said yesterday: "The team are adapting well to this system.

"You can see from the last three matches we played, we have scored goals by three different players (Faris Ramli, Shakir Hamzah and Safuwan Baharudin).

"I believe this is the way to move forward. And moving forward, we will try to introduce this more to all our games. Hopefully, we will score more goals."

Since then, the new version of Sundram's side has netted in all three matches, although the Lions are still searching for their first win since a 1-0 victory over Cambodia last November.

But when asked if he was confident of pulling off a much-needed win to upset the hosts, Sundram remained coy.

He said: "After facing Turkmenistan at Jalan Besar, we continued to perform well in our new formation. We have had good performances in these last two games, we've managed to score goals and this is positive for the team.

"But coming to Turkmenistan, it's going to be a difficult challenge for us. We'll be facing a hostile crowd, it's important for the boys to perform under pressure."

With three games left, the Lions are looking to get off the bottom of the four-team Group E. Only the top two go through to the Finals.

Singapore have two points from three games, two points behind second-placed Turkmenistan. Bahrain are on top with seven points and play Chinese Taipei away.

Lions vice-captain Hariss Harun knows that it is a do-or-die clash today.

The 26-year-old Home United player said: "It's a crucial game for us, we need to get the three points.

"It will be a physical game, (we expect them to be) playing the long balls which they had tried in the first game. So I think we have to be prepared for that.

"We've managed it well in the first game. But it was disappointing to come away with one point when we should have got all three points.

"Now we have to look to rectify that, to go out to get the three points."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2017, with the headline '3 points a must for Lions'. Print Edition | Subscribe