National Teams – Age-group ● May 14, 2022
Singapore in gutsy draw with Malaysia
Harhys Stewart and Malaysian forward Hadi Razak tussle for the ball in the second half. Photo: Kelly Wong/SNOC
NAM DINH, 14 MAY 2022 – It was feisty. It was end-to-end. It was dramatic. For the neutrals, this evening’s Causeway Derby did not disappoint. However, the performance by the Singapore Men’s Under-23 National Team in a 2-2 draw proved too little too late, with Thailand’s subsequent victory over Cambodia ending their 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign.
Nazri Nasir’s charges got off to the worst possible start when they conceded a cheap goal in the fourth minute. Pressing high, the Malaysians pressured Harhys Stewart into ceding possession right outside the penalty box. Although Ryaan Sanizal did well to block the initial shot at goal, Belgium-based Luqman Hakim picked up the loose ball and calmly rifled it into the back of the net.
The lead did not last though. Four minutes later, Shah Shahiran – one of the standout performers in this SEA Games campaign – got Singapore back on level terms with a screamer. Glenn Kweh did well to cut in from the left flank and the ball fell to Shah, whose first-time shot swerved past the diving Azri Ghani into the top right corner.
Shah Shahiran celebrates after scoring the equaliser in the eighth minute. Photo: Kelly Wong/SNOC
The U23s nearly fell behind again when Luqman dribbled through the defence to go one on one against Zaiful Nizam, but the Singaporean custodian made himself big and pulled off a good save to deny the winger.
Both teams stepped up the intensity in the second half but while the Malaysians controlled the game, they failed to break down the Singapore defence. Instead, it was the red shirts who nearly took the lead through Kweh, who latched onto an excellent pass from Joel Chew only to sky his finish with only the goalkeeper in his way.
But the lead did come in the 78th minute as Harhys atoned for his error. Shah’s superb free-kick delivery from the left was met by the defender, who reacted first to poke the ball into the net after his initial effort was saved.
Harhys Stewart celebrates after he briefly gave Singapore the lead in the 78th minute. Photo: Kelly Wong/SNOC
The team’s joy was short-lived though as Malaysian forward Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi found himself free inside the box and headed home Akif Syahiran’s corner just two minutes later. The last ten minutes was anyone’s game, with both sides pouring forward in search of a winner. Tempers also flared, with both sides battling it out to win every ball as the affair eventually ended 2-2.
Despite the result and elimination, Head Coach Nazri remained upbeat: “Playing against Malaysia is always special and the boys duly delivered today. They gave their everything, fought like lions and tried everything they could to win until the final whistle. The Malaysians are physically stronger and slightly more skilful but none of them were intimidated and afraid to make their presence felt and as a Coach there is nothing more I can ask from them.
“The challenge now is for the boys to step up so that they will be in contention to be called up to the senior side. They need to work harder to be different and to have that special something needed at the highest level.”
Singapore: Zaiful Nizam (GK)(C), Nur Adam Abdullah, Ryaan Sanizal, Harhys Stewart, Irfan Najeeb (Arshad Shamim 72′), Jordan Emaviwe, Shah Shahiran, Jared Gallagher (Joel Chew 72′), Saifullah Akbar, Glenn Kweh (Syahrul Sazali 86′), Zikos Chua (Khairin Nadim 56′).
Unused subs: Ridhwan Fikri (GK), Ryhan Stewart, Harith Kanadi, Nicky Singh.