Team Singapore's Enrico Marican in action (Photo Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters)
Singapore’s hockey team battled back magnificently from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with regional powerhouse Malaysia in the final of the SEA Games tournament but had to settle for a silver medal after losing on penalties.
Roared on by a packed crowd, with many hundreds more cheering from the overlooking streets, Singapore showed excellent character and team spirit to mount their comeback and despite the disappointment in the shoot-out they received a fully deserved lengthy ovation from the fans.
“I think the guys showed a lot of character tonight. Obviously as a coach I was bit unhappy with some of the turnovers earlier on and I think we could have been a bit more consistent with execution, but gee, what can I say? It was a gutsy effort, put everything on the park and never gave up,” said Singapore coach Solomon Casoojee.
“That is all that I can ask from the guys - give me everything that you’ve got - and they certainly did that,” he added.
Malaysia led 1-0 at half-time thanks to a 16th minute goal from Mohd Zain Aminudin, after a lengthy spell of pressure had seen six penalty corners.
Malaysia’s substitute Azwar Abdull Rahman then slotted in from a penalty corner in the 44th minute - giving his team a two goal cushion that looked, at the time, plenty enough to secure goal.
But Singapore captain Enrico Marican had other ideas - he charged through the Malaysian defence and got to the byline before sliding the ball into the path of Hafiz Abdul who confidently struck home.
That prompted a huge effort from the hosts as they threw all their players into attack as they looked for a way to salvage something from the game. The reward came in the final moments when the influential Marican jinked his way into the penalty circle and the ball fell to Timothy Goh who fired in - sending the crowd wild with delight.
Team Singapore's Timothy Goh (L) in action with Malaysia's Ashran Hamsani in the penalty shootout (Photo Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters)
The shoot-out started badly for Singapore who missed their first two attempts and it was a tough road back that ultimately ended with a 4-3 loss to a Malaysia team that have only once failed to win the SEA Games title.
“I think at the start maybe we were trying to be too clinical. They knew if they made mistakes they would punish us and so we lost a bit of that intensity, we were trying to be too secure - but that’s a lesson too - not to show too much respect to the opposition,” said Casoojee.
“But there is a lot of guts in this team, I am really proud of them,” he said.
Marican felt the team had shown they have a future.
”It's bitter/sweet. I think we've given our all and played our hearts out. This is one of the best teams I've ever played with. I feel that we won the hearts of our fans and I hope we'll get as much support as possible. We are a young team and we want to go far,” he said.