SINGAPORE - National caretaker coach V.Sundramoorthy was dealt a third straight defeat on the international stage but the 50-year-old would feel hard done by the manner of the loss.
The Lions lost 3-1 to hosts Bahrain in a football friendly Manama on Friday (Sept 2), conceding three penalties. Bahrain, ranked 126th in the world, have now beaten Singapore (159th) in all of their six encounters.
Mohamed Al Romaihi, Abdulla Yaser and Ismail Abdullatif tucked away their spot-kicks (11th minute, 50th and 89th) while Safuwan Baharudin, playing in centre attacking midfield, grabbed Singapore's goal in the 37th minute.
While the Lions did not argue about the first and third penalties, conceded after fouls inside the area by defenders Baihakki Khaizan and substitute Madhu Mohana respectively, the second spot-kick was a dubious decision when a sea of bodies tangled whilst jostling as a Bahraini corner was floated in.
Bahrain dominated possession throughout the match but were unable to carve out clear opportunities. Sundram, known for his well-organised defences, kept the Lions compact.
Still looking to experiment ahead of November's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, Sundram fielded a different backline from the 2-1 defeat to Cambodia in July. In Manama, he opted for full-backs Shakir Hamzah and Juma'at Jantan, with Baihakki partnering Daniel Bennett in central defence while Hassan Sunny was preferred in goal ahead of Izwan Mahbud. The new-look defence performed well to frustrate the hosts.
While there were attempts to string together short passes to threaten Bahrain, it is the familiar direct tactics that proved the most fruitful for Singapore.
Baihakki's long pass from the halfway line met Safuwan's head and the 24-year-old leapt high to beat custodian Abbas Ahmed Khamis to equalise going into the break.
However in the second half, the Lions were clearly frustrated by the referee's decisions to award Bahrain two more penalties, which were converted by Yaser and Abdullatif.