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 By Kenneth Tan

Sundramoorthy hails Asian Cup 'morale booster' result for Singapore

Coach V. Sundramoorthy believes Singapore are well-equipped to face Turkmenistan in their next AFC Asian Cup qualifier after coming from behind to hold higher-ranked Hong Kong to a 1-1 draw on Thursday night.

The Lions were purposeful after going down in the first minute in the international friendly at Jalan Besar Stadium.

They tested Hong Kong keeper Wang Zhenpeng on a few occasions before Safuwan Baharudin scored the equalising penalty midway through the second half.

"I thought this was one of our better games. A win would have been a fairer result, but this is football," Sundram said. "Given what's happening [in Singapore football] right now, a draw is a good morale booster, and the boys can move forward from here.

"We created chances, Nazrul and Faris had one-on-one with the keeper. We were dangerous in our set pieces. We matched up to their physicality, and it's a good preparation for Turkmenistan, which is another physical team."

Singapore lined up in an experimental 3-4-3 formation, with Irfan Fandi, Daniel Bennett and Zulfahmi Arifin forming a three-man defence, while Emmeric Ong and Shakir Hamzah played as full-backs.

Sundram hinted that the Lions will continue to line up in this manner against Turkmenistan.

Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy
Coach Sundram hinted that Singapore will use a 3-4-3 formation against Turkmenistan on Tuesday.

"We want to move forward with this system where there are a lot of passing options," the former national forward said.

"You can see Hariss and Izzdin are circulating the ball to the flanks, making combination plays. We have Faris [Ramli] and Nazrul [Nazari] on the flanks, who are fast and can go behind their defence.

"We just need to improve on keeping the ball better and start to play football."

Sundram also reserved praise for his two debutants Ong and Ikhsan Fandi.

Ong put in a decent shift at right wing-back but got sent off late on for denying Itaparica a clear scoring opportunity after losing the ball in his own half.

Meanwhile, Ikhsan ran his socks off in his 20-minute cameo after replacing Khairul Amri.

"Emmeric did well, defensively he was solid," Sundram said. "He just needs to focus on going forward, and give us more in terms of attacking options. The mistake, any player can do.

"If he didn't bring him down, it could have been a penalty. Good enough he did it and we tried to defend the free kick from there.

"Ikhsan's just 18, and he did well in an international game, putting himself around and got some tackles. He can only improve from here and we can look at having the next striker in the making."

Singapore take on Turkmenistan on Tuesday in a game where they need nothing other than the three points to revive their dream of going to United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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