Tame Lions draw another blank

Chinese Taipei captain Chen Po-liang getting to the ball before Singapore's Anders Aplin to score the only goal of the Asian Cup Group E qualifier in Taipei last night.
Chinese Taipei captain Chen Po-liang getting to the ball before Singapore's Anders Aplin to score the only goal of the Asian Cup Group E qualifier in Taipei last night.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Poor finishing the issue as they lose for 15th time under Sundram but coach still defiant

ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS

Chinese Taipei 1

Singapore 0

It was an Asian Cup qualifier dead rubber that afforded V. Sundram Moorthy the chance to experiment with his attack but in the end, his familiar tactics produced a familiar result for Singapore - a 15th defeat in 23 games under the coach and zero goals scored for the 11th time.

The Lions created a host of chances but failed to convert any as Singapore lost 0-1 in Taipei yesterday, concluding their campaign at the bottom of Group E with two points after two draws and four losses.

Hosts Chinese Taipei finished third with nine points, while Bahrain and Turkmenistan both advanced to next year's tournament in the United Arab Emirates.

The 52-year-old Sundram insisted he was happy with his team's performance: "The boys battled today, we performed well, and I believe it's a good performance."

"We put themselves around, closed down and created chances. We were unlucky not to get something and if we'd scored, it would have been a different game."

The Lions, coming off a first victory in 16 months after beating the Maldives 3-2 last Friday, stuttered again in attack.

The team had previously never scored more than one goal in a game under Sundram, whose record in charge of the Republic reads: three wins, five clean sheets, 14 goals scored and 38 conceded.

DECENT EFFORT

The boys battled today, we performed well, and I believe it's a good performance... We were unlucky not to get something and if we'd scored, it would have been a different game.

V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY, Singapore football coach, who insisted that he was happy with the Lions' showing.

Chinese Taipei skipper Chen Po-liang's incisive finish in the 37th minute off a Li Mao back-heel that sent him clear was enough to give the hosts the win last night at the Taipei Municipal Stadium.

"We know Chinese Taipei have some good players from the last time we played in Singapore (a 1-2 loss last June) and, today, we matched them for most of the game," said Singapore skipper Hariss Harun in a live post-match television interview.

"So it was disappointing not to get the result and I thought we should have got more from the chances we created."

Singapore had more shots (eight) and shots on target (six) than Chinese Taipei (five and one respectively), but it was their opponents who looked the more threatening going forward as the visitors resorted largely to long-ball tactics.

Midfielder Izzdin Shafiq came closest when his shot from 35m was palmed over the bar by goalkeeper Pan Wen-chieh at the stroke of half-time, while central defender Irfan Fandi's 92nd-minute header fell agonisingly wide to the 20-year-old's frustration.

Sundram made two changes to the side that beat the Maldives, with Anders Aplin and Izzdin Shafiq coming in for Zulfahmi Arifin and Shahdan Sulaiman.

There was no room in the starting XI, however, for Fulham Under-18 midfielder Ben Davis or Albirex Niigata playmaker Adam Swandi, although Sundram handed Geylang International defender Aplin, 26, his first start for the national team.

The 52-year-old also elected to bring experience off the bench for his three changes: veteran striker Khairul Amri, midfielders Safuwan Baharudin and Shahdan.

Sundram said of his team selection: "They (the youngsters) are the future but they are already in the national team with us and that's the first step."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2018, with the headline 'Tame Lions draw another blank'. Print Edition | Subscribe