Stange admits Lions were lucky to beat Afghanistan

Singapore coach Bernd Stange was critical of his side’s performance in the 1-0 win against Afghanistan on Thursday night and admitted there are loads of improvements to be made for the upcoming game against Cambodia.

The Lions lacked accuracy in their passing as well as the cutting edge in front of goal, but ended up 1-0 winners on the night due to Khairul Amri’s second-half header.

The patchy display left Stange a disappointed man when he addressed the media at the post-match press conference, citing the absence of Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss Harun through suspension as a key factor.

“There were two winners tonight – the Lions and the fans,” he explained. “They did not let us down during many periods where we were lacking the quality of football.

We have many yards more to go and we have to perform much better

“They pushed us throughout the match and was helpful in us achieving a very lucky 1-0 win against a strong Afghanistan side. Personally I think they surprised me with the input of their players from the German third division, they made a lot of good passes and we were lucky not to concede.

“The reason for our failure in the first half was because we took a while to cope with the absence of Safuwan and Hariss – they are the engine room of this team,” he added. “How can you substitute these two players?

“I kept things low profile in the last three days but you saw the hole in midfield today. I try to push the other players, but I’m not David Copperfield – I can’t simply just recreate another Safuwan or Hariss.”

Afghanistan played well and had a number of chances to score

After an out-of-sorts display in the first half, Stange hauled off captain Shahril Ishak for Faris Ramli – a decision which the German-born coach believed was a necessary one.

“At half-time, I had to do something because Afghanistan was coming at us,” he explained.

“It was difficult for Shahril because he is playing second division football (with Johor Darul Ta’zim II) and the speed of this game is extremely high. He gave everything and I appreciate what he did, but he definitely needs to work on his fitness.

“We had to change our tactics completely in the second half to a more defensive style and play a more compact midfield; we didn’t want to give them space in the middle. We have to depend on our strength which is set pieces and we achieved what we wanted. It’s a dirty win, but we’re happy.”

Despite attaining the three points on the night, Stange wants his side to show massive improvement when they take on Cambodia next Tuesday.

“We have many yards more to go and we have to perform much better,” he admitted. “That’s the reason why you see me not so excited. We have to recover and improve more on our fitness, it’ll be a long and hard way for us.” 

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo