Ex-Internationals think defensive frailties could sink Singapore's title defence
Lionel Lewis, Lim Tong Hai and Noor Ali spoke to FFT in the aftermath of Singapore's 4-2 victory over Myanmar, with the Lions just a point away from clinching qualification to the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals.
It looked so promising for 45 minutes as Singapore went 3-0 up but Myanmar could have levelled things in the second half. What went wrong for the Lions after the break?
We started the game really well and the three-goal lead was a really good one to take into the break. I think a bit of complacency came into place after that and it was really risky to let Myanmar score two. Thankfully Shaiful (Esah) calmed the team down with his set piece which led to an own goal.
Things like that happen… I remember the 2005 semi-finals against Myanmar; we had a 4-3 lead from the first leg but we went 2-0 down at Kallang in the second leg. Fortunately (Noh) Alam Shah scored and we eventually finished the job.
- LIONEL LEWIS, represented Singapore from 2002 to 2011
We were cruising in the first half but once Myanmar scored their first goal, their confidence grew. Also they had an amazing crowd here cheering for them which managed to spur them on to score another. In the end, I think it was a game which could have gone either way. If Myanmar had pressed on more, they would have equalised.
- LIM TONG HAI, represented Singapore from 1988 to 1999
We were well organised and disciplined in the first half, especially with the wingers Faris (Ramli) and Sahil (Suhaimi) tracking back to make us very hard to break down. However in the second half, both of them were not really in the game and we kept giving away possession. Myanmar took advantage of that and they were still creating chances at 3-2. We were quite lucky to get the fourth goal because that was the only chance we had in the second half.
I think we were a bit overconfident that we had wrapped up the game at 3-0. The boys need to learn how to handle situations like this, especially the experienced players like Baihakki (Khaizan), Shahril (Ishak) and Hariss (Harun).
- NOOR ALI, represented Singapore from 1996 to 2005
Is it worrying that our defence has already conceded four goals in two games thus far?
It does look worrying that the defence seems to always be the problem now. Now with Bai suspended and Ismadi (Mukhtar) out, that means 50% of the backline is not unavailable. I’m not sure what Bernd Stange will do against Malaysia, maybe he’ll put Hariss back in defence. It’s going to be very tough for them though; the Malaysians were leading the Thais at one point last night and they are surely a force to be reckoned with.
Yes, I think the two centre-backs certainly have to buck up. The two goals we let it were rather easy and they simply took advantage by cutting through the middle. We need to be more disciplined – if it was the likes of Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, they could kill us off.
On the other hand, it was also good to see us scoring five in two games. It shows that we are a good attacking side especially from set pieces.
- Noor Ali
Hariss Harun was pivotal in last night’s win with his two superb volleyed goals. Do you think he should be doing that for the national team more often and how important is his role for Singapore?
Hariss is more of a defensive midfielder, but he showed that he has the quality to score great goals like this. He demonstrated good control and finished off both chances well. I knew him when we were playing together in the national team in the past; he’s down-to-earth and always hardworking, so I can definitely see him improving and maturing even more.
Whether he scores or not, I can safely say it’s not consequential. He’s one of our pillars in the midfield and his role is to ensure we don’t lose the ball in the middle. If he scores, that’s a bonus.
That said, we can see he has good shooting technique. For the first one, he took his time to chest the ball down nicely before firing in a beautiful volley. For the second, he just slammed in into the top corner after a goalmouth melee. He could even have completed a perfect hat-trick!
Although he’s a defensive midfielder by trade, I think he should get forward more to score goals because he has the ability. He has proven that he is good making late runs from behind. So far he has done an excellent job for the team in these two games and we really need his presence.
- Noor Ali
How far do you see the Lions going in this year’s tournament?
We have a very young team this time round and they will gain experience through this tournament. It’s always about taking one game at a time but I think Singapore are good enough to reach the final.
To be fair, this is the first time in many years our national team is playing without foreign imports, so you have to give credit to how the boys have performed so far. It does take time to gel but I think we are good to reach the semi-finals. From there, we may face Philippines or Vietnam and we shall see from there.
There are many young and inexperienced players in the squad, but so far I’ve seen a lot of guts from boys like Faris, Sahil and Al-Qaasimy (Rahman). They’ve shown desire and aggression in these two games. People were talking about Thailand, but we were the better team the other day [when we faced them].
If they keeping working as hard, coupled with no injury and suspension troubles, I think we have a chance of winning the Cup.
- Noor Ali
Photo: Kamthorn Pornsakulpaisal