Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy denies that his team were over-confident before falling to a shock 2-1 defeat to Chinese Taipei in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier on Saturday night.
A crowd of 5,004 at Jalan Besar Stadium were expecting to see the Lions secure a comfortable victory when they took the lead through Hariss Harun's goal in the sixth minute.
But the Taiwanese, three spots below Singapore in the FIFA rankings, stormed back to equalise before half-time through a stunning volley from Belgium-born Xavier Chen.
And then a defensive mix-up saw Chen Chao-An head into the empty net on the hour to give the visitors a thoroughly deserved away victory.
"I can't say we are complacent. The boys tried... they can do better. Once you out-run opponents, you've got chance to win," Sundramoorthy said.
"The lesson is that there's no easy games in international football. Everyone needs to work extra hard to get points."
Having drawn their opening qualifier away to Bahrain on March 28, Singapore could have put themselves in a strong position with a home victory. Instead, they now find themselves at the foot of the Group E table, with Turkmenistan and Bahrain having a game in hand.
After the absence of key striker Khairul Amri, Singapore opted for midfielder Safuwan Baharudin to lead the line. While the Malaysia-based utility toiled hard and won many balls in the air, the Lions struggle to create clear-cut chances.
Sundramoorthy insisted that his side tried to played with positive and attacking intent, despite a tendency to go for long passes. Once Singapore fell behind, he pushed Irfan Fandi to play up front, alongside Safuwan and substitute Khairul Nizam.
"You see the last five minutes, Irfan there, Nizam there, Safuwan there, that's the fastest route to go," Sundramoorthy said.
"If we start to build, we could lose the ball and get countered. Nizam was in a great position to score when he controlled and fell.
"[Earlier] we were not cautious... we were technically clever to be compact. Chinese Taipei can hold, can create, so we must not be too open and let them punish us. Obviously, you can see for the table for yourself, now we need to pick ourselves up."
Singapore will now prepare themselves for a high-profile friendly against Argentina, who have confirmed that Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Nicolas Otamendi.
As for Chinese Taipei, they will celebrate one of the best-ever competitive victories.
FT: Singapore ���� 1 - 2 Chinese Taipei
- AFC Asian Cup (@afcasiancup) June 10, 2017
While they lost their opening Asian Cup qualifier 3-1 to Turkmenistan in March, a 1-1 friendly draw against Suzuki Cup semifinalists Vietnam that same month gave a hint of their progress.
"Maybe spirit was the problem for Singapore because they're stronger than us," Chinese Taipei coach Kazuo Kuroda said.
"We started training in Taipei three weeks ago and we did our best. We thought Singapore's level was better than us and we were worried about this away game, but the players worked very hard today."
Turkmenistan will host Bahrain in another Group E qualifier on Tuesday.