REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
The Singapore Under-22 side will surely be asking themselves what they could have done better against Malaysia’s U-22 team on Wednesday (16 August) night at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Despite taking the lead in the first half, the Young Lions still lost 1-2 – a result which means they will most likely be eliminated from the football group stages at the SEA Games for the second edition running.
Prior to the match, coach Richard Tardy had spoken about the importance of getting a win against the host nation. And for a while, it looked like the Young Lions would do so after Amiruldin Aysraf gave them the lead with a stunning goal.
But two quick-fire goals from Nor Azam Azih and Thanabalan Nadarajah – both half-time substitutes – turned the tide around for the Malaysians and sealed Singapore’s fate.
As with the game against Myanmar, Singapore found themselves under pressure right from the start.
While both sides had shots on target in the opening 10 minutes, it was the hosts who had more possession of the ball as they went in search of an early goal.
Singapore almost opened the scoring in the 18th minute against the run of play, when attacking midfielder Hami Syahin made an outstanding run into the Malaysia box. However, his shot resulted in a comfortable save for Harimau Muda’s goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli.
Despite the pressure on them, Singapore managed to hold on. This paid off in the 39th minute, with Amiruldin curling in his left-footed shot from just outside the box after Singapore won the ball deep in Malaysia’s half of the pitch.
Two minutes later, Hami had a cheeky attempt from a free-kick off a tight angle, but it clipped the post before going out.
Right before half-time, it was Malaysia’s turn to hit the woodwork from a free kick, with Safawi Rashi’s effort crashing against the crossbar.
Malaysia’s coach Ong Kim Swee made a change at the break, bringing on Azam and Thanabalan, which turned out to be an inspiring move.
Both players score a goal each within five minutes of one another, turning the game around for the hosts and stunning the Singapore side.
First, Azam was given loads of space at the edge of the penalty area after a good build-up move and he fired a powerful effort past the diving Zharfan Rohaizad in the 68th minute.
Then, with momentum on their side, Malaysia pushed on and capitalised on some poor defending from Singapore, with Thanabalan slotting one in from close range in the 72nd minute.
By then, Singapore had grew desperate, and a swap in formation by Tardy to a 4-4-2 formation, which included pushing the towering Irfan Fandi upfront, did little to help matters.