Parking the bus not an option as Lions must go for broke

National football captain Shahril Ishak (second from right), vice-captain Hariss Harun (third from right) and the rest of the team signing two footballs, which will be auctioned off later to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). The L
National football captain Shahril Ishak (second from right), vice-captain Hariss Harun (third from right) and the rest of the team signing two footballs, which will be auctioned off later to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). The Lions were at the Tay Choon Hye-NKF Dialysis Centre at Kim Keat Road yesterday, as part of a visit to interact with patients.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Facing a do-or-die clash against Turkmenistan at home, national football coach V. Sundram Moorthy has no choice but to break the mould as a defensive tactician.

Singapore will host the Central Asian team next Tuesday at the Jalan Besar Stadium, hoping to turn their 2019 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup third-round qualification campaign around.

The Lions enter the clash bottom of Group E with one point from two games, having held top seeds Bahrain to a goalless draw in March but losing 1-2 at home to unfancied Chinese Taipei in June.

But Sundram, known for his defensive tactics, will be able to adopt a more attacking approach with more firepower in the squad this time around. And he will have a chance to test out this strategy when the Lions host Hong Kong in a friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow night.

Experienced forwards Khairul Amri and Fazrul Nawaz, both 32, have returned to the set-up. The final squad will be announced today.

Khairul, who is the Lions' current leading scorer with 32 goals from 115 games, was out for a month in June due to appendicitis, while Fazrul was sidelined for a year after he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in an S-League match last August. Talented youngster Ikhsan Fandi, 18, has also been called up.

Sundram said: "It's good to have some of the players back. With Khairul, Fazrul back and the inclusion of Ikhsan, we're in a better position this time (to score). If we don't score, we will not win games."

Khairul added: "I'm relieved to be back after my operation. I'm feeling good even though I haven't been playing full matches.

"I'm hoping to contribute by scoring. I was eyeing (a chance to play in) the Chinese Taipei game, and we needed to win that match.

"But it's not over yet. We need goals, we need that early goal."

Sundram admitted that the loss to Chinese Taipei was a setback for the team. He said: "That was a game we should have won. Had we won that, the team's morale would have been higher now."

Lions captain Shahril Ishak added: "We should have won the last game and it's frustrating for us because we made some mistakes as a team. So this is an important game for us if we want to still be (in contention) in the group."

They were speaking on the sidelines of a visit to the Tay Choon Hye-National Kidney Foundation Dialysis Centre at Kim Keat Road yesterday, where the players and officials interacted with patients and gave football goodies to them.

Sundram said: "Hong Kong are similar opponents (to Turkmenistan). They have some foreign players and are physically strong.

"I've watched the Turkmens play, they are a hard-running team and they've a few players who are technically good.

"It's an important game to keep our chances (to qualify for the Asian Cup) alive."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Parking the bus not an option as Lions must go for broke'. Print Edition | Subscribe