Singapore point in Bahrain qualifier is big boost for Asian Cup - Sundram
"A big point for a small team" was coach V. Sundramoorthy's description of Singapore's courageous 0-0 draw in Riffa that ended a streak of seven straight defeats to former Asian Cup semifinalists Bahrain.
The Singapore squad returned home on Wednesday, satisfied in the knowledge that the positive result in the Middle East gets their Group E campaign off to a good start as they look to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates.
The Lions overcame a lack of possession, and injuries to key players Khairul Amri and Safuwan Baharudin, to frustrate the Bahrainis, who have appeared in the last four Asian Cups.
"It's a very difficult game coming to Bahrain and playing away. They are not an easy team, they are very physical, they have tall strikers," Sundramoorthy said.
"We came out with a game plan to sit back and go on the counter and with a bit of luck we got an important point to move forward to the Asian Cup.
"It's a big point and it's good for a small team like Singapore."
Singapore are in equal second spot in Group E, behind Turkmenistan who defeated Chinese Taipei 3-1 in Taipei on Sunday night. The Singaporeans will next host Chinese Taipei at the National Stadium on June 13.
The top two teams from six different groups of four in third-round qualifying will join the 12 nations who have already booked their places for 2019.
"It gives us a lot of motivation to face the next games," said Sundramoorthy, who led Singapore's LionsXII to the 2013 Malaysia Super League title.
"I expected [Bahrain] to come at us. In all the meetings before they've beaten us. We know Bahrain have very good players. They had two or three very good chances, but on the day they didn't take them."
Bahrain, who finished fourth in the 2004 Asian Cup, will travel to Ashgabat to play Turkmenistan in their next qualifier on June 13.
The draw snapped a three-game losing streak for Singapore, dating back to last November's AFF Suzuki Cup, and is good confidence boost for Sundramoorthy as he prepares to begin a new, two-year contract.
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