Stange must take blame for Lions' home blues, says Leonard Thomas
German must shoulder the blame for his side's inability to handle the pressure
They opened their campaign with a slick 4-0 win over Cambodia in Phnom Penh and angered the home faithful four days later with a backs to the wall stalemate with continental giants Japan.
They pushed Syria hard in Muscat in September, the two sides were evenly matched and the Lions were unlucky to leave the venue in Oman 1-0 losers.
While they managed a late fightback despite playing much of the second half with 10 men, Singapore were outclassed last night in their own den and it is inexplicable how the Lions have played with fire and determination on their travels in their World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifying campaign, and been so poor at home.
ASIAN CUP, THE GOAL
Coach Bernd Stange must tell us why the Lions play Jekyll and Hyde, and what needs to be done to turn the home performances around.
There will be calls for his head, but he's always said the goal is to qualify for the Asian Cup Finals and barring a disaster against Afghanistan in Teheran next March, the Lions will make the play-offs and have every chance of booking their ticket to the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
His Lions are a younger pride and missing players blooded under the foreign talent scheme, and he should be allowed to finish the job.
Stange has also selected the best players in the country in his squad and I agree with the German that the majority of them are not good enough to take on the better sides in Asia.
It is the state of football in the country today.
But armed with vast experience after successful coaching stints in Europe and with Iraq, Stange must shoulder the blame for four mostly lacklustre performances at the National Stadium over the last couple of months.
And, lest we forget, the Lions also flopped at the venue in their mission to defend their Asean crown in the Suzuki Cup last November.
They were poor in a 1-0 win over Afghanistan in front of their own fans, they were the same in a 2-1 win over lowly Cambodia and were joyless against Japan and now Syria.
If the Lions cannot handle the pressure of playing under the glare of the spotlight at home, surely it is the job of the coach to recognise this and make adjustments to alleviate the duress.
The Singapore players actually said before Thursday's game against mighty Japan that all the pressure was on the visitors, especially after the draw in Saitama, yet they were scared and defended too deep (Stange's own words), didn't want the ball, were frightened in possession and either played teammates into trouble or hurriedly hit passes into no man's land, and hardly mustered anything positive.
They were the same in the first half against Syria last night, improved slightly after Madhu Mohana was sent off in the second period, although the Syrians had clearly taken their foot off the pedal and so nearly paid the price.
Take away Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Izwan Mahbud and these Lions lose what little sheen they have.
Many will question why Stange didn't use Shahril Ishak, but the veteran forward is no longer fit enough to jostle, hustle and harry at this level.
Singapore fans must demand even better fitness from Stange's Lions and there can be no compromise here because it will compensate for so many other deficiencies.
The call has gone out before and I say again: the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Stange must work to get the Lions playing friendlies against better opposition more frequently.
LACK OF MARKSMEN
The loss of striker Khairul Amri to injury was a huge blow, but it also highlighted the fact the country lacks talented marksmen and Fandi Ahmad must use 23-year-old Sahil Suhaimi much more in his natural position in Malaysian Super League side the LionsXII.
He is a talented finisher and if the LionsXII are a developmental team, as Fandi himself has said, then surely Sahil must be given a run.
It is crucial these Lions make it to the Asian Cup Finals in 2019.
If the spot is secured, the FAS and its much-vaunted technical team led by Belgian Michel Sablon have three years to mix up the squad with younger talent coming through.
With a possible bid to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2019 being explored, it could be a springboard year for Singapore football.
Stange's Lions have collected 10 points and lie in third spot in Group E, it is the correct position, and their Asian Cup hopes are alive.
But the performances in front of their own, in a world class arena, have not been good enough.
And that's a serious problem.
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