Bold Lions send­ing one strong mes­sage

The Straits Times - - FRONT PAGE -

cen­tre-back Ir­fan Fandi.

It ap­pears Sin­ga­pore are now in a brave new world, in­stead of be­ing shack­led by the ten­ta­tive tac­tics of the past.

With the Lions ex­tend­ing their un­beaten run to five in­ter­na­tional games and win­ning streak to four – their long­est since they won nine on the trot from 2004 to 2005 – it is clear that there is now a high level of trust be­tween coach and play­ers.

The three points have raised spir­its ahead of equally vi­tal Group B clashes in the Philip­pines (Tues­day) and Thai­land (Nov 25) which sand­wich the next home game against Ti­mor Leste (Nov 21).

But the bonus was the man­ner in which Sin­ga­pore won – they took the game to the speed­ier and tech­ni­cally su­pe­rior In­done­sians when the op­por­tu­nity arose, but also re­mained or­gan­ised and dis­ci­plined in de­fence in front of 30,783 fans at the Na­tional Sta­dium.

And true to the #on­e­strong hash­tag the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Sin­ga­pore cre­ated for this cam­paign, the Lions look like a united fam­ily on and off the pitch.

Vet­eran Bai­hakki Khaizan was seen giv­ing Ir­fan, his suc­ces­sor in de­fence, a pep talk on the pitch at half-time. Ikhsan, 19, helped fel­low for­ward Faris Ramli up, who was on his knees af­ter see­ing his lob bounce off the bar in the sec­ond half.

Even the usu­ally ret­i­cent as­sis­tant coach and for­mer in­ter­na­tional S. Subra­mani charged out of the dugout to re­mind the play­ers to stay fo­cused as the vis­i­tors tried to pick a fight late in the game.

Faris said: “There is a real unity and be­lief about the team. We are fight­ing for each other too while fight­ing for our coun­try.”

While it is al­ways good to start a tour­na­ment with a win, skip­per Hariss Harun urged his team to re­tain the hunger that has al­lowed them to end their run of three years with­out a com­pet­i­tive vic­tory.

The mid­fielder, who grabbed the win­ner on Fri­day, added: “We needed this win, but let’s not get ahead of our­selves. We have not won the tour­na­ment or even got out of the group yet.

“We must stay fo­cused, re­main hum­ble, re­spect every op­po­nent and work harder to achieve our goals.”

ST PHOTO: DES­MOND WEE

Sin­ga­pore’s Gabriel Quak chas­ing down In­done­sia’s Putu Gede dur­ing Sin­ga­pore’s 1-0 AFF Suzuki Cup win at the Na­tional Sta­dium o n Fri­day. The winger, whose cross led to Hariss Harun’s win­ner, epit­o­mised the new-look Lions un­der in­terim na­tional coach Fandi Ahmad by also dis­play­ing the dili­gence to track back de­fen­sively and throw him­self into tack­les.

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