REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
The women’s water polo team’s quest to avenge their loss in the 2015 SEA Games to Thailand came up short after they lost to the same team 5-1 at the National Aquatics Centre in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (19 Aug).
Singapore’s only goal came through Angeline Teo with 4:30 to go in the second quarter and had equalised matters after Thailand scored first through Kornkarn Puengpong in the first quarter.
But barely a minute later, Sarocha Rewrujirek gave Thailand the lead again and Singapore never caught up.
The result meant that Singapore finished with the silver medal once again to Thailand, as they did in the previous SEA Games held in Singapore, where they lost 5-4.
Kornkarn and Thitrat Somyos scored in the third quarter to give Thailand an unassailable lead, before Varistha Saraikarn wrapped up the win with another goal in the final period.
It was heartbreak for the Singapore team, who had a number of opportunities. However, they were unable to make full use of them, while the Thais did so.
Singapore’s coach Lee Sai Meng, a former member of the Singapore men’s water polo team himself, felt that the team were looking too much for a perfect opportunity to score.
While he offered that the biggest difference between the two teams was “a very strong goalkeeper (Thawanrat Wongpairoj)”, Lee said that Singapore “don’t have a good enough shooter” to trouble Wongpairoj.
“To score one goal and expect to win the game, I think that’s very hard. It’s something we have to work really hard on. Defensive-wise, we did well. But they (the Singapore girls) are too conservative in their shot selection,” Lee explained.
“Mentally, they want a ‘one-shot-one-kill’ kind of thing. But that should not be the way. There’s no such thing as a perfect goal. So sometimes, the opportunity is lost because they hesitate for a while.”
Still, their effort is a commendable one.
The Thais, since their last SEA Games win, got a huge boost in budget and were able to go to Europe and Japan to prepare for this SEA Games.
Coming into the final match, the Thais had put a total of 34 goals past Malaysia and Indonesia.
It was a point that Thailand coach Daniele Ferri pointed out.
“I have to congratulate the Singapore coach… he did the best he could today, because he controlled the team very well in defence,” the Italian said.
“My team is very fast in our counter-attack, and Singapore didn’t give us the chance to do that today. He prepared his team very well to nullify us.
“If he didn’t, we would probably have been able to win via a bigger score-line. The Singapore girls tried hard and fought to the last second.”
For captain Gina Koh Ting Yi, she said that despite the loss, the team have “no regrets” as they gave it all against a Thai team that has improved tremendously.
The onus, for now, is for the Singapore girls to close the gap on Thai.
“This loss gets us thinking what we need to do more. All of us were very prepared for this game, but I guess we can improve further and we will work towards it as a team,” she said.