Hurray!! Singapore beat Thailand 3-1 in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final. By the basis of this result, Singapore should already have a hand on the trophy. But then, this is just the first half. With the 2nd leg on Saturday in Bangkok, the Lions must show more confidence and fighting spirit if they want bring back the cup.
While watching the 1st leg on TV, what surprised me most was when the Lions actually took the fight to Thailand, matching them strides for strides, stifling Thailand’s midfield physical battle, and best of all, Singapore seemed to be playing fast flowing football. The team looked mobile going forward and looked disciplined in keeping to their tactical formation. Thailand looked dumbstruck going down 1-0 in the first half. As they slowly gained their confidence, they still could not find a way past Singapore’s midfield. However, Thailand did show us their strength of speed in breaking down the defense especially in the 2nd half, where Singapore showed glimpse of being too static in their formation.
Thailand did get a crucial goal, with it being the away goal, Singapore should not be resting on their laurels and play defensively on Saturday. With the speed that Thailand has, I don’t think our defenders can cope with the intensity for 90 minutes. Anyway, should Thailand score an early goal, it should become interesting, as they need to win by 2-0 to win. That’s the plus point or negative for us, in away goal ruling. Thailand has 90 minutes to breakdown and score 2 goals and it can be done. Just remember what Liverpool can do in 45minutes in 2005, Man United in 2minutes in 1999. So it’s still anybody’s game at the moment although we have the slight edge.
This match is probably the time I wished that the coach would be Sundram or even Roberto Di Matteo. Sundram had shown us throughout the season how he grinds out results with his absolute defense in away games, playing overly cautious just to get that single point. Who can forget about Roberto Di Matteo, who taught the whole Chelsea to become the master of defense by parking their buses effectively against Barcelona earlier this year? Messi did not even get to sniff at the goal. By comparison, if Thailand’s playing style is similar to Barca, then we have to play like Chelsea. No matter what the others might say about the playing style, we should only look at the end result.
When we won in 1998, Barry Whitbread was the coach and handling his last assignment. He brought back the cup against all expectation, and winning against Vietnam at their homegrown. This will also be Raddy’s last assignment with the Lions and he had gone into this tournament with no chance given by the media. He is almost there with his third triumph and just a bit more to go. He is as wily as anyone would be, and he should know what needs to be done to make it a happy ending. To beat Thailand on their home ground would be an achievement, and to win the cup by beating Thailand in Thailand, will make him the legend!