Football: Lions lack cutting edge

Domination comes to naught as Tigers hold the hosts to a goal-less draw

Singapore defender Daniel Bennett (No. 16) and Malaysia forward Hazwan Bakri (No. 18) challenge for the ball during the stalemate at the National Stadium.
Singapore defender Daniel Bennett (No. 16) and Malaysia forward Hazwan Bakri (No. 18) challenge for the ball during the stalemate at the National Stadium.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN


Singapore 0

Malaysia 0

This was not the homecoming that V. Sundramoorthy had envisioned for his first outing at the National Stadium as national caretaker coach as his Lions demonstrated a lack of cutting edge in a 0-0 draw against Malaysia in yesterday's Causeway Challenge.

It may have ended a run of three straight defeats for the Lions but Sundram will know there is plenty of work left before Singapore are ready for next month's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

This was the Republic's seventh international match this year and they have managed only six goals.

The 51-year-old tactician bemoaned his side's inability to convert their dominance into goals.

He said: "We were unlucky and should have easily won two or three-nil. The boys created enough chances and kept possession of the ball very well. But the ball just didn't want to go into the net. It seemed easier to hit the bar than score a goal. "

Against an inexperienced Malaysian team that struggled to find any attacking rhythm and a backline that lacked cohesion, the hosts attacked in waves.

Opposing full-backs Rizal Ghazali and Nazirul Naim had three caps between them and Sundram was determined to exploit that weakness as Singapore focused their efforts down the flanks. Faritz Hameed started at right-back for Singapore but spent most of his time in an advanced role more suited to the No. 9 on his back.

Singapore's best chance came in the 42nd minute when striker Khairul Amri's curling effort crashed against the crossbar. When the rebound fell to team-mate Hariss Harun, the Singapore captain could only direct his header against the bar again. The second half saw the woodwork come to the visitors' aid again, when Daniel Bennett's header hit the goal frame.

And Singapore winger Faris Ramli looked disgusted when his penalty appeal for a strong tackle in the box was dismissed by the referee, to the groans of the 24,928 fans clad mostly in red.

Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee praised his team's character and said: "This was Singapore's best XI and we did a good job to prevent them from scoring."

Singapore's next match will be in Hong Kong on Tuesday before a 10-day training camp in Qatar, which includes two friendlies.

A final sparring match will take place on Nov 12 before their Suzuki Cup opener against the Philippines on Nov 19. Singapore will also face fellow four-time champions Thailand and Indonesia in Group A.

Sundram said: "We will build from here. This was one of our best performances in a long time but there is still more work to be done."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Lions lack cutting edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe