Singapore coach Bernd Stange was convinced that Baihakki Khaizan would have been sent off had he stayed on the pitch in his side’s 2-1 loss against Thailand at the Singapore Sports Hub on Sunday evening.
Baihakki earned himself a yellow card when he made a clumsy challenge on eventual match winner Charyl Chappuis after only 16 minutes.
Considering he would be walking on a tight rope for the remainder of the game, Stange made the decision to take him off at half time.
His failure to appear after the break did raise a few eyebrows, as Zulfahmi Arifin came on in his place while Hariss Harun took his position alongside Safuwan Baharudin at the heart of the defense.
“I did not want to finish this game against a strong Thailand side with 10 players,” Stange explained to the media at the post match press conference when asked about the surprise switch.
“Everybody can understand that it’s a long tournament, I would finish this game with 10 players and Baihakki would be suspended for the next match. It’s very simple to explain and understandable for everybody who likes football.
“We had to change Baihakki. The next touch or the next tactical foul would be automatically a yellow or red card. That’s why I changed him and brought Hariss and we made some tactical changes.
“We played with only one midfielder, Shahdan [Sulaiman], and brought on Zulfaimi. It worked because we created counter attacks and clear chances.
Baihakki, who has been criticised by sections of fans lately for his rather sub-par performances for the LionsXII, was adjudged to be at fault for Thailand’s first goal as he failed to pick up Prakit Deeprom from a throw in. The striker then squared the ball to Mongkol Tossakrai, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Despite Khairul Amri’s equaliser minutes later, Swiss-born Chappuis had the final say as his late penalty was enough to hand the War Elephants all three points.
Singapore face Myanmar on Wednesday next in a must-win clash before rounding off their group-stage match on Saturday against Causeway rivals Malaysia.