Later News Dec 23

Tatsuma hails Hariss’ influence as Lions battle to AFF semi-final first leg draw against Indonesia


In the world of professional football, there are captains like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who, for all his millions, can’t seem to afford a watch that keeps time accurately, as well as captains like Harry Maguire, who for all the millions spent on him, can’t seem to pass the ball accurately.

 

Then there are captains like Hariss Harun – the talented, consummate professional, and selfless leader who will not hesitate to run through brick walls, or an ERP gantry during peak hours, for his team.

 

It is why the 31-year-old has enjoyed the successes he has throughout his illustrious career, and why he continues to be the heartbeat of the Singapore National Team at the ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup.

 

Last evening, Hariss’ tactical flexibility and organisational skills came to the fore once again, as he helped lead the Lions to a hard-fought 1-1 draw against a sprightly and aggressive Indonesian side in the first leg of the tournament’s semi-final at the Singapore National Stadium.

 

Initially deployed in the centre of midfield in the first-half, Hariss was tasked by coach Tatsuma Yoshida to play as a centre-back after the break – a decision that proved inspired, as the Lion City Sailors star not only brought much-needed calmness to the backline, but also began to dictate proceedings from deep.

 

This allowed Singapore to bounce back from a turgid first-half, in which Indonesia had gone ahead through a 28th minute Witan Sulaeman goal.

 

And despite spurning several gilt-edged opportunities like they were possessed by the spirit of Timo Werner, the Lions eventually scored a deserved equaliser in the 70th minute through BG Pathum’s newest star, Ikhsan Fandi.

 

In his post-match press conference, Tatsuma highlighted the tactical switch to drop Hariss into defence – which allowed him to bring anchor man M Anumanthan into the fold – as a key reason for his team’s sudden improvement in the second half.

 

“We needed to calm down on the pitch so (I made the decision for) Hariss to drop into the back,” explained Tatsuma. “I wanted him to be the distributor and for him to build up the play for us from the back. In that situation, we just needed to find a new solution.”

 

While a comeback draw against Indonesia – who topped the ‘Group of Death’ – might be construed as a good result for Singapore, Tatsuma was slightly more circumspect, as he reflected on what was a game of two halves.

 

“This result might not be very good, but it is also not too bad for us,” Tatsuma mused. “Some players were a bit nervous today and I can understand because it was a big match today and there is some pressure playing as the hosts. 

 

“I told them at half-time, ‘you must not escape your responsibilities or hesitate – you must try to show your full potential and individual qualities’.

 

“In the second half, our performance was better and I am very proud that the boys did not give up at any moment of this match. Ikhsan’s goal gave us the motivation to keep our heads up and keep going.”

 

Looking ahead to the semi-final second leg this Christmas, Tatsuma hinted that he might introduce fresh faces to the team in a bid to bring some festive cheer to the home fans.

 

“There are just two days of rest and we have 26 players now in the squad. Maybe we can bring in some new players while keeping our quality on the pitch,” said Tatsuma. “I always have confidence in my boys, and we will try to get the best result on Saturday.”

 

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