Singapore coach Bernd Stange believes his side would have produced a more competitive display in Friday’s 4-0 defeat to Syria had they been at full strength.
The Lions were sent back to the bottom of Group A in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers after being thumped at the Shahid Dastgerdi Stadium by Syria, a side that they had beaten 2-1 just last month in their earlier encounter.
However, the visitors were only trailing 1-0 up till the 83rd minute thanks to Sanharib Malki’s tenth-minute opener, before a late meltdown saw them concede further goals to Ahmad Al Douni, Oday Jafal and Abdul Fattah Al Agha.
Still, the scoreline could have been much worse had it not been for the heroics of goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, who made a series of fine saves throughout the match to deny Omar Kharbin, Malki and Al Agha.
Singapore were without five players that started in last month’s victory at the Jalan Besar Stadium; vice-captain Hariss Harun and star centre-back Baihakki Khaizan out through suspended, youngsters Madhu Mohana and Zulfahmi Arifin missing through national service commitments while centre-back Safuwan Baharudin was allowed a leave of absence after getting married recently.
And Stange was strongly of the belief that the result could have been very different had he been able to name a full-strength side.
“We were missing six of our key players for this match,” he said on the AFC’s official website.
“I’m sure that if we had them with us, we could have gained a much better result against Syria like the first game when we beat them at home.
“In a small country like Singapore, when you lose six key players for unforeseen reasons, it’s way too difficult to replace them with new players.”
The German tactician was however magnanimous in defeat as he declared that Syria were deserving winners, but was also disappointed with how his side conceded three goals in the final seven minutes.
“It was a deserved win for Syria,” Stange added. “They were much better and much more experienced than us.
“We played up to our level up until the 83rd minute but from then until the end, my players broke down as a team and everything started to fall apart.”
Since Stange was handed the reins, Singapore have won four and lost four of their eight games.