Bahrain coach on Lions: If you just wait, you're the chicken
Bahrain coach says Lions are well-organised but too passive
|(Mahdi Abduljabbar 65, 84, Jamal Rashid 81)
Bahrain coach Mirsolav Soukop likened Singapore's national team to chickens after beating the hosts 3-0 in an Asian Cup qualifier at the National Stadium last night.
The result sent the visitors through to the tournament proper which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, and consigned Singapore to elimination and the bottom of Group E.
Soukop's comments were not meant to be disrespectful as he had used the same term earlier in the post-match press conference to describe his team when they lost 2-1 to Taiwan through two late goals last month.
He had praised Singapore's good organisation, but when asked what they could improve on, Soukop said: "The activity after losing the ball... modern soccer is not just about possession and passes.
"If you just wait (for things to happen), in this moment, you are the chicken.
"(You have to know) who and when to go for challenges, or press after losing the ball.
"But you have some good players, like No. 21 (Safuwan Baharudin), the goalkeeper (Hassan Sunny) and No. 12 (Shawal Anuar)."
In front of 2,628 fans, Singapore did start the match brightly, and could have taken a surprise first-minute lead when Zulfahmi Arifin's free-kick found its way to Shawal Anuar, who sliced his shot across goal from the back post.
Five minutes later, Irfan Fandi blasted a free-kick straight at Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Hashem from 30 metres.
But that was as good as it got for the hosts, who lost both Shawal and Irfan to injury, and then struggled to get men forward to support defender-turned-attacker Safuwan.
The activity after losing the ball... modern soccer is not just about possession and passes.Bahrain coach Mirsolav Soukop on what the Lions can improve on
V. Sundram Moorthy's men could not deal with Sayed Dhiya's cross from their right in the 65th minute, and Mahdi Abduljabbar scrambled the ball in with his second attempt.
In the 81st minute, the visitors sliced apart the tired home defence and Jamal Rashid blasted in from near the penalty spot, before Mahdi got his second from a similar position three minutes later.
After seeing his team go 13 "A" internationals without a win, Sundram blamed the defeat on the injuries, and said: "It's always the case and it's frustrating.
"When Irfan was there, we were solid. When he left, their No. 9 (Mahdi) had more space.
"And if we give goals to opponents on a plate, it's hard to come back.
"My game plan was to make three tactical changes but we couldn't because of the injuries. With the injuries, I can't bring in a Plan B."
"From here, we need to look for strikers in the league. We have limited choices now, we have to see what the league can give us in the future."
But in the bigger picture, it was not Bahrain who did them in.
Rather it was the Singapore's profligacy against Turkmenistan and Taiwan, the other two teams in their qualifying group, that led to six points dropped which would have changed the scenario drastically.
The Lions had started superbly in this campaign by holding world No. 125 Bahrain to a 0-0 away draw in March, before the wheels came off.
In June, they took a sixth-minute lead against world No. 143 Taiwan. They should have gone on to win, but inexplicably sat back, allowing the visitors to pinch it 2-1.
Three months later, they again scored first - and the Lions don't score that often - against world No. 114 Turkmenistan at Jalan Besar, but a defensive lapse cost them an 82nd-minute equaliser.
It was a similar story away to the same opponents last month. They did well to find an equaliser but, according to local media, resorted to delaying tactics despite needing the points to overhaul their opponents, and received a stoppage-time sucker punch to lose 2-1.
Skipper Hariss said: "We didn't make use of our home advantage to give us the confidence we need to go far in this campaign.
"We didn't play well against Taiwan, and put up our best performance against Turkmenistan but didn't take our chances.
"It's disappointing and we don't want this bad streak too, but we have to face it, take responsibility for the results and work hard to bounce back next year for the Suzuki Cup."
In yesterday's other Group E game, Turkmenistan beat Taiwan 2-1 in Ashgabat to join Bahrain in the 2019 Asian Cup with 10 points from five games.
Singapore will conclude their campaign with a dead rubber in Taiwan on March 27.
- SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi (Nazrul Nazari 58), Hariss Harun, Daniel Bennett, Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi Arifin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hafiz Sujad, Shawal Anuar (Faritz Hameed 12), Safuwan Baharudin, Faris Ramli
- BAHRAIN: Sayed Hashem, Sayed Hasan, Abubaker Aadem, Waleed Al-Hayam, Ahmed Abdulla, Komail Hasan, Abdulwahab Al-Safi, Jamal Rashid, Abdulla Yaser (Ali Jaffar 62), Sayed Dhiya (Hesham Nayem 90), Mahdi Abduljabbar (Sami Al-Husaini 85)
Goals scored in 21 'A' internationals since V. Sundram Moorthy took over.
Goals conceded, with 10 coming in the last 10 minutes of a game.