Lions conjure 1-0 win for new coach Sundram
Dominant hosts knocked out by a Faris sucker punch as Lions' Hassan shines
REPORTING FROM YANGON
AYA BANK CUP
(Faris Ramli 34)
New national football coach V Sundramoorthy is right after all: This is a results-oriented world.
After seeing their team outplay Singapore for chunks of the match only to lose 1-0 at the Thuwunna YTC Stadium last night, the 31,000 Myanmar fans applauded and cheered the Lions off the pitch at the final whistle, and reserved some heavy heckles for their own White Angels.
All the intelligent combinations, all the wing play that stretched the visitors counted for nothing as Myanmar just could not find a way past Singapore's inspirational goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, who produced smart stops to deny a Myo Ko Tun 16th-minute free-kick and Aung Thu's 88th-minute thumper.
In the end, it took just one long pass from the back by Baihakki Khaizan for Fazrul Nawaz to do just enough and allow the ball to run through to Faris Ramli, who rifled home first-time in the 34th minute to seal Singapore's place in the Aya Bank Cup final against Vietnam on Monday.
Add to that some stout defending and it was reminiscent of Sundram's LionsXII team that pinched results away from home with gritty performances en route to winning the 2013 Malaysian Super League.
"It feels good to get that first win under my belt, but more importantly, it makes the players more confident as we prepare for the Suzuki Cup," said Sundram, who was named the new Singapore coach last week.
"Credit to our boys for closing down the opponents in difficult conditions in the second half with the downpour, and not giving any goals away.
"But we can definitely improve. This was my first game in charge and we will learn from it.
"We need to have more possession and be more composed on the ball."
Singapore striker Fazrul was guilty of missing two glaring opportunities in the 77th and 93rd minutes, after great work by Gabriel Quak and the twinkle-toed Faris on the left and right wings, respectively.
The Lions now have two days to get up to speed because Vietnam look like they have the finishing to match their quick-passing game, based on their earlier win over Hong Kong, even though they needed a 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory to advance, after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
Before Faris' goal, Singapore had offered almost nothing going forward, and their direct approach mostly allowed Myanmar to regroup and launch fresh waves of attack.
The Lions were also missing the presence of Hariss Harun - who was playing in defence - in central midfield as Safuwan Baharudin's knock-downs mostly found an opponent instead of a teammate.
And this was against a Myanmar side ranked 12 rungs below world No. 149 Singapore.
At the post-match press conference, it seemed like Myanmar coach Gerd Zeise would gladly swop positions with Sundram after seeing his side slump to their sixth match without a win.
"Singapore defended very well and showed it is possible to win games like this," said the 63-year-old German, who will face even more pressure from critics at home after this result.
"Our performance was partly good, but how can I be satisfied without a result?"
- MYANMAR: Kyaw Zin Phyo, Myo Ko Tun (Kyi Lin 46), Aung Zaw, Zaw Min Tun, Hein Thiha Zaw, David Htan, Yan Aung Kyaw, Ye Ko Oo, Maung Maung Lwin (Kyaw Ko Ko 59), Aung Thu, Than Paing (Suan Lam Mang 77) SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny 8, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari 7, Baihakki Khaizan 6.5, Hariss Harun 6.5, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6.5, Gabriel Quak 6.5 (Zulfadli Zainal Abidin 84), Izzdin Shafiq 6.5, Safuwan Baharudin 6.5 (Zulfahmi Arifin 90), Azhar Sairudin 6 (Yasir Hanapi 60) 7, Faris Ramli 7.5, Fazrul Nawaz 5
SHOTS: Myanmar 8 on target, 4 off target; Singapore 3 on target, 2 off target
CORNERS: Myanmar 9, Singapore 0
YELLOW CARDS: Myanmar 1, Singapore 4 (Nazrul, Azhar, Baihakki, Hariss) ATTENDANCE: 31,000 REFEREE: Nazmi Nasaruddin (Malaysia)
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Hassan Sunny (Singapore)
Matchwinner Faris' scoring ratio now second to only Amri
ON TARGET: Singapore’s Faris Ramli wheeling off in celebration after scoring.
With 30 goals from 103 caps, Khairul Amri is Singapore's No. 1 striker.
But already 31, Father Time shadows Amri these days, with the skilful goalscorer more and more susceptible to injuries.
The striker with the next best goal ratio is Fazrul Nawaz, another 31-year-old, with 12 goals from 83 caps, but the Tampines Rovers hitman had an outing to forget, after missing two sitters in last night's 1-0 win over Myanmar.
Step forward winger Faris Ramli, who scored the winner with an instinctive left-footed effort after Fazrul held off a defender to allow Baihakki Khaizan's long ball to run through, as the lucky Lions booked a spot in the Aya Bank Cup final against Vietnam on Monday.
It brings Faris' international tally to four in 21 games, and lifts him to second spot, only behind Amri, in terms of goal ratio within the current national squad.
The 23-year-old's potential has never been in doubt since his emergence via Nike's The Chance competition, a worldwide talent hunt for young players, in 2012.
The following year, Faris put in a stunning attacking display and was close to unplayable with his pace and trickery as the LionsXII beat Pahang 3-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
But it was only in the last couple of years that he has added lethal finishing to his game, with close to 20 goals in all competitions.
The Home United winger paid tribute to his two former LionsXII coaches - V Sundramoorthy and Fandi Ahmad - who are now Singapore's head coach and assistant coach, respectively.
He said: "They have been key to my football career and they were the ones who told me that as an attacking player, I need to contribute more goals to the team.
"While I'm still learning from the senior players, I realise I am already 23 and not a young player any more. I need to take more responsibility and it feels great to score and pull off a win, thanks to a team effort."
On a night when goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was in top form to repel tremendous pressure from Myanmar, Sundram was glad that he had a goalscorer at the other end to seal their place in the final.
He said: "We knew that the hosts, with 31,000 fans behind them, would come at us from the start.
"But we did well to hold up and managed to score through Faris at the other end, and it could have been two or three in our favour.
"Faris was not the only player who did well but he has improved on his goal output in recent years and the way he scored showed his maturity.
"I want him to continue to contribute goals and win games for the national team." - DAVID LEE