|Close to 25,000 watched the Causeway Challenge|
Apart from both teams used this friendly to finalize their preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup next month, it always not uncommon to have both the Lions and Harimau (Tigers) trying to claim supremacy over each other since both went separate way in 1965.
Any match featuring these two nations would usually wipe up those chest-pumping patriotism sentiments on both sides of the Causeway, but the mood during the run up to the match played last Friday at the iconic National Stadium at Kallang resulted a much mundane affair.
Perhaps much of that "damp squid" ambience have to do with ongoing misfortune that plagued the football fraternities of both sides.
|(L-R) Coach Sundram and Malaysia's coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee|
With the Malaysian squad is rocked by international retirement of several key players, their neighbours down south are handicapped by injuries to a number of their regular starters in recent months.
And it came no surprise on Lions caretaker coach V Sundram moorthy's part to recall veterans like Geylang International's Daniel Bennett and Tampines Rovers' Fahrudin Mustafic out from wilderness to help to steer the ship on choppy waters.
38-year-old Bennett repaid that faith shown on him by utilized his experience to keep the Malaysians at bay on last weekend, despite having not played at that level after forced into international retirement by former Lions coach Bernd Stange for almost four years.
|Bennett (second from left) led an example|
While that move did not reap any dividend against the Harimau on that day, it allowed some flexibility in the attacking deployment when the likes of Shahdan Sulaiman and Fazrul Nawaz are not available due to injuries.
|Rock Steady Farra|
Nonetheless, some feedback from the grapevine voiced their concern if the inclusion of those naturalized players suggested the dearth of fresh talents that failed to churn out from the pipeline in recent years?
LACK OF TRANSITION
I would rather put it down as the lack of the transition - the passing of baton from the old guards to the new ones - when Stange first took charge and led to what we are facing today.
Till this day, I still maintain it was a miscalculated move by the German to end the international careers of those senior players, beside Bennett and Mustafic, in a hastily manner in favour of having a younger national team.
Since then, have we not seen players who were touted to be potential replacements but only to be flash-in-the-pan who lasted only a few games before fallen out of the radar?
|Hougang United's Iqbal Hussain|
Therefore, it shall be focused on getting the shape ready instead of experiment a few more tactics like he did during the Japan training trip weeks ago.
The convincing display by the back quartet that night shall be a relief for the man who just celebrated his 51st birthday, although his bigger problem now is how not to see his forwards hit the crossbar thrice again like they did on past Friday.