File Photo Credit: Stanley Cheah/SSC
By Alan Yuen
INSIDE SINGAPORE FOOTBALL (4): SEA GAMES FOOTBALL DREAM
The Young Lions’ hunt for their first gold medal continued at the 2013 SEA Games. Getting drawn in Group A, Singapore faced off against causeway rivals Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos and Brunei.
Group A, Match Day 2: Singapore 1-1 Laos
Singapore kicked off their SEA Games campaign against Laos – a side they’ve faced more than any other team. And the Young Lions were off to the worst possible start.
The Young Lions failed to capitalize on an early sending off, largely due to their inability to find a steady rhythm throughout the game. Singapore coach Aide Iskander cited nerves as a major cause. Despite the 26th minute goal scored by Sahil Suhaimi, the game was a lot closer than the scoreline initially suggested. The Young Lions were fortunate to produce a goal in a rare spell of possession.
The Laotians refused to go away, opting to push the pace, pressuring the Singapore defence frequently. The backline eventually succumbed in the 85th minute, when Khouanta Sivongthong slotted in a header from a set piece cross.
The Lions sputtered to a 1-1 draw despite the opposition being 1 man down for the majority of the game.
Group A, Match Day 2: Vietnam 0-1 Singapore
Hot off the heels of their poor performance, the Young Lions faced a tough Vietnam squad fresh from their 7-0 demolition of Brunei earlier on match day 1.
The Vietnamese side came out strong, coming close to scoring twice in the first five minutes.
Despite Vietnam dominating the game for the first half, they simply could not find the back of the net. This seemed to have a calming effect on the Young Lions, as they gradually eased into the game and settled into a rhythm.
With half-time approaching, Singapore had one last opportunity from a corner kick. Sahil Suhaimi came up big for Singapore once again. With the cross sailing long, a poor clearance landed right at Sahil at the edge of the penalty box. Sahil didn’t connect well with his half volley, but his shot deflected off the leg of a Vietnamese defender and into the net.
Singapore’s serendipity looked to be short-lived at the beginning of the second half, with the Vietnamese on constant attack. The Lions were so possession-starved that it looked like an attack-and-defend practice session, with Singapore barely venturing past its own half. Despite the overbearing Vietnamese offence, Singapore managed to weather the storm and emerged unscathed with a much-needed 3 points.
With the win, Singapore briefly moved to the top of Group A, with 4 points. Malaysia’s win over Brunei brought their point total to 6 points, pushing Singapore to second place in the process.
Group A, match day 3: Singapore 2-0 Brunei
Singapore maintained their unbeaten start with a victory over Brunei. Captain Hariss Harun gave Singapore the lead in the 35th minute after capitalizing on a poor effort from Brunei to clear the long ball. Hariss punished their mistake with a volley from the penalty box.
Sahi Suhaimi made it 2-0 in the 66th minute when the Brunei defence once again was unable to contain the long ball. With the goal, Suhaimi has scored in all 3 of Singapore’s games.
Group A, Match Day 4: Singapore 1-1 Malaysia
Singapore progressed to the semi-final after their 1 -1 draw against Malaysia. A 61st minute goal by Afiq Yunos seemed to guarantee Singapore a top spot in Group A, but they were denied by a stoppage time free kick by Rozaimi Abdul Rahman.
Semi-Finals: Singapore 0-1 Thailand
In the semi-finals held on the 19th of December, Singapore started off strong, with Hafiz Abu Sujad nearly converting an early opportunity that would have given the Young Lions the lead.
In the 23rd minute, the Thai team earned a penalty after Charyl Chappuis was brought down in the penalty box. Praweenwat Boonyong converted from the penalty spot giving Thailand their winning goal and sending them into the finals.
Thailand later went on to beat Indonesia in the finals to claim the goal medal.
Bronze Medal Playoff: Singapore 2-1 Malaysia
In the Bronze medal match, Singapore found themselves facing Malaysia again, a side they had narrowly missed beating in the group stage. In the other side of the semi-finals, Malaysia had narrowly lost to Indonesia in a penalty shoot-out after being tied 1-1 after extra time.
Singapore got off to a fantastic start when captain Hariss Harun scored a double in the 13th and 14th minute mark. He scored his first goal after pouncing on an error made by the Malaysian goalkeeper. For his second goal just a minute later, he converted a cross after sneaking pass the Malaysian defence.
Malaysia managed to pull back one goal through Thamil Arasu in the 68th minute mark, but it was not enough. This gave the Young Lions a well earned Bronze Medal in the 27th SEA games held in Naypiytaw, Myanmar.
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