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 By Kenneth Tan

Sundram to focus on AFF Suzuki Cup for Singapore after winless 2017

Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson mull over the implications should the S.League take a one-year break in 2018.

Coach V. Sundramoorthy is now looking ahead to the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup after Singapore failed in their quest to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.

Despite getting their qualifying campaign off to an encouraging start with a 0-0 draw away to Bahrain, the Lions struggled for more positive results.

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Their hopes of making the continental tournament for the first time since being hosts in 1984 were extinguished in their fifth Group E game on Thursday night after a 3-0 defeat to Bahrain at the National Stadium.

It meant they have nothing more than just pride to play for in their final group game away against Chinese Taipei in March.

Hariss Harun and company did well to keep their more illustrious visitors at bay for more than an hour, before succumbing to three goals in the final 25 minutes.

Sundramoorthy lamented injuries to Shawal Anuar and Irfan Fandi that forced a tactical reshuffle.

Shawal was lively in the opening stages, but lasted just 14 minutes. Irfan twisted his ankle around the hour mark after a stout performance at the heart of the Singapore defence.

"Irfan's departure was key," Sundram said. "When he was there, we were solid. He dealt with all the high balls and crosses.

"When he left, it was a different game. Their No. 9 [Mahdi Abduljabbar who scored two out of Bahrain's three goals] had more space and opportunities. We conceded soft goals.

"It's frustrating that we could not do the subs (we planned). Shawal got injured, then Irfan and also Zulfahmi Arifin (late on)."

The defeat to Bahrain brought a torrid 2017 to an end for Singapore after three draws, seven defeats and, most significantly, not a single win.

Tampines Rovers and Singapore winger Hafiz Sujad looks ahead to The Lions' Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain.

The Lions have scored just six times in those 10 matches, and have yet to score than one goal in a game since Sundram took over in May 2016.

The 52-year-old is keen to change things, with their next major task being next November's Suzuki Cup.

"From here, we have to look at strikers in the S.League, and possibly some younger players," he said. "We have limited choices and we have to look at what the league can give us.

"Now we just have to do our best against Chinese Taipei (in the last group game), and prepare for the AFF."

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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