Friday, 14 December 2012

Avramovic lauds Lions’ determination

Singapore – Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic praised the character and determination of his players on Wednesday after they battled their way through to the AFF Suzuki Cup final with a narrow 1-0 victory over the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Lions did not enjoy the best of build-ups to this year’s tournament and lost to the Azkals in a pair of warm-up friendlies in September and November.

But the three-time champions have risen to the occasion since they kicked off their tournament with a 3-0 win over defending champions Malaysia and they reached the final for a fourth time thanks to Khairul Amri’s 19th minute strike in front of a full house of 7,500 at Jalan Besar.

Avramovic, who was in charge of the Lions for two of their triumphs in 2004 and 2007, felt that the victory came down to the character of his players, who are fiercely determined to make amends for their group stage exit two years ago.

“We can in some way predict what can happen in these games and depending on how the game is going, we can plan what to do in those situations. But the players gave 100 per cent and thanks to them, we achieved this victory,” said the delighted Serbian, who could afford himself a smile in the post-match press conference as he eyed another appearance for his side in the Asean regional final.

According to Avramovic, the focus and determination of his players was evident after their goalless draw against the Philippines in the first leg of the semi-final in Manila when they turned down the chance to unwind after the match in order to make preparations for the return leg.

“You must wish to win and we have a group of players who really act as a team,” he said.

“I felt that this really came out in the Philippines when the players, on their own initiative, wanted to go back to the hotel. I wanted to give them some time off before we went home but they told me that they wanted to go back to the hotel to prepare for the next game.

“I think that if you look over the two games we deserved to go to the final," he added. "In today’s game, I thought that we played really well in the first half and we should have scored maybe one more goal and then it would have been a completely different second half.

“But we didn’t and that gave them extra motivation and they really pushed numbers in attack but we predicted that would happen and we dealt with it well.”

The Singapore coach singled out defensive midfielder Isa Halim for special praise and also lauded his back four for denying the Azkals any clear cut openings during the game.

“I should really mention Isa. I think he’s got two hearts because he was doing an absolutely great job,” said Avramovic.

“I also think that (the back four) were really brilliant. I think that Baihakki (Khaizan), Daniel (Bennett), Safuwan (Baharuddin) and Shaiful (Esad) had really good positioning and they have done an extremely good job. It was really not easy.”

The Lions will be sweating on the fitness of Fahruddin Mustafic who had to leave the game at half-time with a leg muscle injury but Avramovic is looking forward to an exciting final, no matter which team his side will face.

“I think that it is absolutely great that the team is in the final and very nice if we can win but Malaysia and Thailand are very good teams and it will be hard,” he said.

“However, we are also a good team so the final should be good.” 

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