Stange: I will not allow negativity

Singapore's last-gasp loss to Syria in their World Cup qualifying encounter on Tuesday night drew a perplexing response from head coach Bernd Stange during the post-match press conference.

Despite being outclassed for the majority of the match by a superior Syrian side and going a man down after Madhu Mohana's dismissal, the German declared himself very pleased with the performance.

"I am still very proud of our team for how they performed and how they did," he told assembled media. "We did everything right, but football is football and we were not able to bring the 1-1 result home.

"A few minutes [was all that stood between us and a draw] and it is exactly that gap in standard that we have to improve at national level.

"We are still in the driver's seat for our objective to go to the Asian Cup in 2019 and we need preparation, planning and hard work.

"I am absolutely optimistic that the team is growing, and [I want to tell] anybody who starts to think about criticism that we are playing with a young team.

"They gave all that they had in their mind, in their fitness and their ability. They were able to deliver but the quality of a few (opposition) teams is too big.

"We are on the third position (in Group E) and I want everybody to be positive to help Singapore football and to help our team go to the United Arab Emirates in 2019."

Stange had made several changes to the team that lost 3-0 to Japan just last week, with Christopher van Huizen making his full debut in place of an ill Faris Ramli and Zulfahmi Arifin replacing Fazrul Nawaz.

Safuwan Baharudin was pushed into the striker's role, but found chances hard to come by as Syria dominated the opening exchanges.

"I think it was an excellent decision and it worked today," Stange said when questioned about his line-up. "It was very risky what we did to bring players in like Van Huizen, a guy who has bever played a full game and is always a substitute, but I am looking for players who are able to deliver in 2019.

"He has ability and he can make big steps forward. If you believe in such players, you have to bring them in.

"Amri and Faris are our two creative players and I think us coaches found a fantastic solution today in their absence.

"Always to use luck or bad luck as an excuse is unfair to the players who gave everything."

Stange labelled Madhu's red card a learning experience

Defender Madhu was handed a straight red card for an off-the-ball clash with Syria's two-goal hero Omar Khribin, making Singapore's task harder that much harder just 10 minutes after the break.

"The red card was a matter of concentration and cleverness and the players have to learn from such things because it hurts us," Stange said. "It takes away our chance to attack and do more and we had to change our style.

"I think [Madhu] will learn from that, he will never do it again. It was not only Madhu though, these players have to learn and have to step up."

Stange was also at pains to explain how the Syrian team had improved in leaps and bounds since a 2-1 loss to Singapore in 2013, while the Lions had been left behind.

"Only three of their players play in Syria, all the others are in leagues which are better than our S.League," he said. "They are playing at a higher level than our players and that's why they are a step faster and more comfortable on the ball.

"They play in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup ... you know if I had four or five players [playing overseas], we would improve further and that's why it's up to us to perform better.

"I'm absolutely convinced we need this international experience. To play 65 games during a year at our level like in the S.League is definitely not enough.

"We need planning and preparation for our national team and we need more international commitments and more support for our stakeholders to improve our football level in Singapore."

With just one more game to go in these qualifiers, Singapore are out of World Cup contention but are still in the running for a place in the Asian Cup third qualifying round.

Stange seemed insistent that further criticism would only hurt the national team, ending the press conference by telling the media to paint the performance in a positive light.

"The team will be a few years older (in 2017) and Christopher will maybe score a goal which is important for the qualifiers," he said. "I won't allow negative things. Not today.

"We still have a chance and I need your support to be positive and to praise the players for what they did today. All the other things will come, believe in it.

"Be positive, be optimistic and we will handle everything else."

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo