By Abhishek Mehrotra
LIONSXII dominated the game from start to finish - with defender Safuwan Baharudin opening the scoring with a header before striker Agu Casmir grabbed a goal either side of the break to earn all three points for his side.
After the match, Alberts said refused to lay any blame on the artificial turf at the Jalan Besar Stadium, saying: "It wasn't the field. Singapore [LIONSXII] were better, they played a good game and were individually stronger than our players.
"They won every duel, they were strong in one-on-ones and when they played the ball up front, they could control it. Our defence had no strength in the one versus ones. And when we played the ball up, their defence was stronger. So I'm not upset, because it was a lesson in football today [Tuesday]," said the surprisingly upbeat coach.
Alberts did say though that his side suffered due to the absence of some important players.
"Of course coaches always come up with excuses - we had a number of players not playing. Influential players. So, there was not enough leadership in the team. There were too many new players, young players who still look at the others to help them. Today [Tuesday], there was nobody to help them."
The coach signed off by remarking that it was a good experience for his side to play and learn from a strong outfit like the LIONSXII.
"It's a good lesson for a team like Sarawak to play against almost the full national Singapore team. Singapore [LIONSXII] have a good spirit within in the team. They fight for each other, they work for each other and they have a good attitude on and off the ball. Our players have to learn from that."
LIONSXII coach V.Sundramoorthy was pleased to see his team win after drawing their last two games against opposition [Kedah and Kuala Lumpur] they were expected to beat.
"After the two draws and the defeat against Kelantan, it was important to come back to winning ways," he said.
Sundram's charges are now seven points clear of defending champions, but have played a massive six games more. Despite that, the coach still held out slim hopes of winning the title.
"Anything can happen," he said. "We will try to win our remaining four matches. With a little luck, and if Kelantan mess up on the way, we might catch them."
On Tuesday, the LIONSXII certainly put on a performance worthy of champions, but Sundram brushed aside suggestions that it was a facile win.
"It's never easy in football - especially when you're 2-0 up, that's the most dangerous score, because if any time Sarawak had scored one, the game would have changed. [But] we managed to get the third goal and sealed the game. That's when we knew the three points were in the bag."
There were a number of positives from the game for LIONSXII, scoring two goals from open play, both through Agu, being one of them.
"We're scoring a lot from set-pieces. But today [Tuesday] we scored two from open play and we must keep working on that. However, when the game is really tight, set-pieces can swing it your way."
Agu's brace was another talking point to emerge from the win.
"Having scored two goals, he now has confidence in front of the goal. He contributed to our attacks, at the moment he is the most in-form striker we have," gushed the former Singapore international.
However, while Agu sparkled, Sufian Anuar, who partnered the Nigerian up front before being substituted at the start of the second-half, had a lacklustre outing. Sufian missed a couple of golden opportunities in the opening half. Sundram said of the striker: "We needed someone to replace Sufian so that Agu could have more space up front as the lone striker. So I brought in Safirul [Sulaiman] in on the left to put in more crosses. Sufian tried his best but sometimes it's not your day and you have to work harder in the next game."
Anuar exit saw the home side change their formation with midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman taking the playemaker's role just behind Agu and laying on the assist for the striker's second goal. With captain Shahril Ishak sidelined due to injury, Sundram thinks Shahdan can step in.
"Shahdan has what it takes to play behind the striker," he said.
"He has the technical ability and playing in that position suits him - it's his best role. He has got one of the best fitness levels in the team. He can go box-to-box depending on whether we're attacking or defending and he has got the intelligent pass in him - he can make the final pass for someone to score."
Shahdan himself told ESPNSTAR.com later that he believes he can take the playmaker's role, before agreeing that the winning the title was still difficult despite Tuesday's win.
"It was a good win. We needed the three points badly, but it [the title] going to be very tough. Kelantan still have a lot of games to play, so have to stay positive and finish our matches."
His teammate, defender Baihakki Khaizan was of the same opinion: "The title is not in our hands. It's up to Kelantan now. We'll just keep going and see where we finish."
LIONSXII face Sabah in their next Malaysia Super League encounter at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday, June 16.