Stange proud Singapore avoided Japan mauling

Lions boss Bernd Stange praised his team for playing to their strengths in order to secure a valuable point in Monday’s 0-0 stalemate against the Samurai Blue.

Hosts Japan dominated vast swaths of the joint World Cup 2018 and AFC Asian Cup qualifying clash in Saitama, raining down shots on goal and being denied by the woodwork twice as the Lions barely managed to break out of their own half.

But Stange blasted suggestions that they were overly negative, insisting Singapore fulfilled their objectives and executed their gameplan to perfection against the overwhelming favourites.

“I believe Japan played an excellent attacking game over 90 minutes,” the coach told reporters at his post-match press conference. “We were under enormous pressure in the first hour.

“We achieved an unexpected result. Singapore defended compactly and tried to keep the ball without committing silly, needless fouls. We made it extremely difficult for Japan by doing exactly what we were capable of, and I am proud of my team after their showing.

“The way we played may not have been attractive for neutrals, but what else would you expect from a team ranking 154th in the world - for us to play attacking football and then lose 4-0?”

Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud took the plaudits for keeping a clean sheet following an impressive showing between the sticks, and Stange tipped the LionsXII custodian to enjoy a bright future.

“He’s a young man who I think can attract big clubs,” the German concluded.

“For someone who started his career as a striker, his performance tonight and his saves was amazing. He did a brilliant job here as part of the team.”

Singapore now improbably sit atop Group E after enjoying an unbeaten start to their qualifying campaign.

Image credit: Football Association of Singapore