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 By Kenneth Tan

Singapore must tighten defence for Asian Cup qualifier - Sundramoorthy

Coach V. Sundramoorthy acknowledged Singapore's need to brush up on their defence before facing Turkmenistan away in Ashgabat on Tuesday night in a crucial Asian Cup 2019 qualifier.

The Lions arrived in Ashgabat on Saturday morning after almost 24 hours of travelling, which includes eight hours in transit in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sundram's men desperately need a result to keep their qualifying hopes alive as they are currently bottom of Group E after collecting just two points from their opening three games.

Bahrain lead the standings with seven points, followed by Turkmenistan (four points) and Chinese Taipei (three points). Only the top progress into the finals in U.A.E.

Singapore put up a gutsy performance last Thursday, but fell to a 3-1 friendly defeat against Qatar -- ranked 77 places above them in the FIFA rankings at 85th -- away in Doha.

After Faris Ramli scored to reduce the deficit in the second half after Qatar led through an Almoez Ali brace, Fazrul Nawaz thought he had equalised for the Lions but his effort was disallowed for offside.

Ahmed Alaadin's late penalty then settled the result for the 2022 World Cup hosts.

Sundram was pleased with his side's attacking display, but not so happy with how they fared at the other end.

"Scoring is one thing but concentration for the whole match is crucial," the former national forward told The Straits Times. "We could have avoided at least two of the goals.

"From now till the Turkmenistan game, we need to work hard on certain areas. Certainly staying concentrated will be one of those things."

Sundram, who turned 52 on Friday, continued his experimentation with a 3-4-3 formation a third successive game the last time out and believes he has lots of options going into the crunch game against Turkmenistan.

He singled out attackers Ikhsan Fandi and Safuwan Baharudin for their displays after coming on as second-half substitutes against Qatar.

"Ikhsan came on and did well," he said. "Safuwan played as an attacker and did very well. They are really competing strongly for starting places and it is a good selection problem for me to have.

"This friendly against Qatar was an important warm-up ahead of the Turkmenistan game. It gives me an indication of who is ready and who is not."

Singapore's other attacking options include leading scorer Khairul Amri (32 goals), free-scoring winger Faris Ramli and hardworking forward Fazrul Nawaz.

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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