Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy lauded his boys for giving their best despite the 2-1 loss the Lions, ranked 163, suffered in their international friendly against Afghanistan at Al Sailiya Sports Complex in Doha on Thursday.
With Sundram getting a two-year contract extension ahead of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers, the focus was on the friendly game in Qatar, which served as warm-up for upcoming tests against higher-ranked sides in the qualifying campaign - Bahrain (127), Turkmenistan (!44) and Chinese Taipei (159).
Even those who were not expecting a positive result against the higher-ranked Afghanistan, especially after Singapore's woeful performance at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup would have felt let down when the Lions conceded a goal in just four minutes. However, the Asean strugglers buckled up and went into the break without further damage.
After the break though, Singapore played with renewed energy levels and the result was there to be seen as Geylang International winger Shawal Anuar found a way through the Afghan defence and got the equaliser as early as in the 47th minute, after which the Lions kept testing the opposition. However, Afghanistan regained the lead in just 10 minutes through Mustafa Azadzoy's strike.
Home United's in-form striker Khairul Nizam, who replaced Khairul Amri at the one-hour mark, led the fightback but his efforts to find the equaliser went in vain. As expected Sundram went in with Irfan Fandi and Safuwan Baharudin ahead of Madhu Mohana and Daniel Bennett at the back and the new pairing did its job to help Singapore stay in the game and his inspired tactical change upfront almost paid off.
Sundram believes that his team was unlucky and that the fairer result after his boys' spirited efforts should have been a draw. However, the 51-year-old tactician stresses on the need to move on and focus on the Asian Cup qualifying opener against Bahrain, next Tuesday.
"The boys gave everything, we were aggressive and fought for every ball but we were unlucky. We were much better than Afghanistan in the second half and a draw would have been a fairer result," Sundram said, as quoted by The New Paper.
"It has been a while our last international game... we started slow but eventually we got into the game. We have to move on and more importantly, plan and improve for the match against Bahrain."