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Lions going for win against Laos

Gary Koh

Nothing less than a win will do for defending Asean champions Singapore when they take on qualifiers Laos in their Group B clash at the National Stadium tonight.

With the target of three points in mind, Lions coach Radjoko Avramovic is set to start Indra Sahdan in a bid to break their goal scoring duck in the Asean Football Championship.

However, the Serb cautioned against rushing the forward into the heat of action too intensely.

“Indra is not fully fit. Hence, the approach must be measured on how to use him in any match,” he said.

While he emphasized the must-win situation for the co-hosts, he refused to be drawn into hopes of an inflated score against the minnows.

In fact, even a one-nil win would leave him satisfied. He noted: “We must win, but the margin of victory is secondary. It is more important for me to get maximum points out of the remaining group games to reach the semi-finals.”

For his primary objective in the group stage to be met, the Lions need midfield anchorman Mustafic Fahrudin to boss in the middle of the park.

But another yellow card would rule the No. 15, who was booked in Singapore’s goalless draw with Vietnam on Saturday, out of the possible do-or-die clash against Indonesia on Wednesday, thus depriving the Lions of his combative play and pinpoint passing.

Avramovic ruled out resting him for the Laos game as he brings the team up another level with his no-nonsense approach on the pitch. “Mustafic will play, but I have already told him to be more careful,” said the coach.

He further added on the midfielder’s immense value to the team. “He comes into every challenge, tackling it with conviction with the aim of winning the ball and bringing others into play.”

His Laotian counterpart Saythong Syphasay believes his side will be better prepared this time after their opening clash with Indonesia.

“I expect the Singaporeans to take a similar approach like the Indonesians did on Saturday,” he said.

“Like our first opponents, Singapore play a lot of crossing and high balls into our box. Therefore, we must attack these before we get into further trouble.

“Singapore are an experienced team, with professional, tougher and taller players in their squad, compared to us, all of whom are students and can afford only a one month training camp in preparation for this tournament.”

In a bid to turn up the heat on the Lions, Saythong claimed that a glut of goals at his side’s expense was inevitable. “Singapore are likely to score more goals against us than Indonesia.”

Despite the Laos coach’s insistence that his side is inferior, it will be fatal for Avramovic’s men to underestimate them at their peril.

The key players to watch out for in the Laotians are captain and star forward Visay Phaphouvanin, wingers Kaysone Soukhavong and Sisomphone Sathongyot.

While Visay as the lone forward in the 4-5-1 formation is not likely to directly cause Lionel Lewis too many problems, he poses many headaches just by holding the ball and bringing his teammates into the other half.

Using their slow build-up from defence, the Laos captain can release the ball for his overlapping colleagues to launch a surprise breakaway.

Hence, Aide Iskandar and his backline can ill-afford to be slow if they do not want to add further pressure on Indra and his possible strike partner Noh Alam Shah to deliver the goods at the other end.

Three points and another solid performance from Singapore will help them psychologically before the decisive encounter with Indonesia on Wednesday


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