SINGAPORE - If the main aim of the Singapore's international friendly against Solomon Islands was to ensure their new coach Tatsuma Yoshida started his tenure with a win, the Lions got the job done. Barely, with a 4-3 win at the National Stadium on Saturday (June 8).
But if the larger objective is to get the Lions to play possession-based attacking football, then Yoshida has a lot of work to do after celebrating his 45th birthday on Sunday, as he rated the performance "six or seven out of 10".
To be fair, the Japanese was appointed only on May 30 and had just four training sessions with his team.
He said: "It is a good result and a positive start. Our boys played a little nervously, made some mistakes, and we have to improve on some things, but they showed good attitude.
"We couldn't control the play and couldn't stop the opponents' attack in midfield, and we panicked a little. We didn't interchange well and we need to learn to hold our defence first.
"I'm used to seeing players who train well but become nervous in games. These are things we cannot improve on in one or two days but I trust my players and we need to keep going."
Singapore, who started off with a 4-1-4-1 formation, got off to a flyer in front of around 1,500 fans when Faris Ramli headed home Shahdan Sulaiman's cross, following a well-worked move in the fourth minute.
After the bright start, Singapore strangely sat back as both sides lacked ideas and urgency.
Gabriel Quak had a one-on-one goalscoring opportunity in the 33rd minute but took one touch too many before shooting straight at Philip Mango.
But Solomon Islands looked the likelier team to score towards the end of the half and Izwan Mahbud had to be alert to thwart Joses Nawo twice in two minutes.
The Lions did not take heed of the warning signs and were made to pay just three minutes after the restart when Feni Gagame cut in from the right and fired across Izwan into the bottom corner.
It got worse for Singapore when Adam Swandi's poor first touch allowed Andrew Abba to give the visitors the lead with a left-footer in off the post.
Singapore equalised in the 67th minute when Shahdan's free-kick eluded everyone and beat Mango. But the Lions continued to display poor technique in the second half as Zulfahmi Arifin's casual pass in the 75th minute resulted in a fast break for the visitors, and Benjamin Totori beat Safuwan Baharudin and Izwan at the near post to restore the Solomon Islands' lead.
The Lions replied almost instantly, when substitute Khairul Amri threaded Gabriel Quak through to make it 3-3.
Izwan then had to be brave to deny Nawo after Hariss Harun's sloppy backpass in the 78th minute, which resulted in a head injury for the Singapore goalkeeper who was then replaced by Hassan Sunny.
Hariss then made amends in the 85th minute when he slotted in from close range after Mango dropped Quak's corner to ensure the hosts got the win that should help the Lions improve their world ranking of 160 and secure a better seeding for next month's World Cup qualifiers draw.
Solomon Islands coach Wim Rijsbergen said: "We gave a couple of goals away and allowed Singapore back into the game. We have guys who come from very low standards and we have to learn in international football, every mistake can lead to a goal."
Hariss, who grabbed his 10th international goal, was pleased with how his team fought their way back to win, but urged for a better showing against Myanmar on Tuesday.
He said: "It is important we got the win. We did it the hard way, which is not ideal.
"We have to work on controlling the game better. I think it was a case of being comfortable and overconfident after the early goal and we were punished.
"The boys enjoy playing such attacking football but we need to remember our defensive responsibilities too, so tonight was a good lesson we have to learn from."