The Singapore national football team needed to keep it tight at the back and only hold out for a goalless draw in their final AFF Mitsubishi Electric Group B to qualify for the semi-finals, but they went down 4-1 against arch-rivals Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Wednesday night.
Petaling Jaya FC striker Darren Lok opened the scoring for Harimau Malaya in the 35th minute. Stuart Wilkin added a brace in the second half for the hosts in the 50th and 54th minute. Faris Ramli reduced the deficit for the Lions in the 85th minute, but substitute Sergio Aguero restored Malaysia’s three-goal lead in the 88th minute.
With the results, Singapore ended the campaign in third place with seven points. Malaysia is in second place with nine points, while Vietnam is in the first position with ten points. The top two teams from each group advanced to the semi-finals.
In Group A, Thailand and Indonesia are on ten points, but the Thais are at the top spot due to a superior goal difference. In the semi-finals, Vietnam will face Indonesia, while Malaysia will take on favourites Thailand.
The Malaysians came out with an attacking mindset as the Lions’ custodian Hassan Sunny was the busier of the two goalkeepers right from the start. In the eighth minute, Singapore’s defence was caught napping from a long ball into the box, but they had Hassan to thank as he made a double save to deny Faisal Halim and V. Ruventhiran.
Hassan was once again called into action in the 17th minute. Faisal Halim retook possession from Hafiz Nor, and he dazzled past the Singapore defence before he unleashed a powerful shot that was palmed away by the Singapore goalkeeper.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 35th minute when Safawi Rashid, despite being marked by two Singapore players, managed to cross the ball from the right flank, and Lok sent a thumping header to the top corner.
The home fans did not need to wait long after the half-time break for their second goal. Wilkin took advantage of a clearance by Singapore’s captain Hariss Harun which was poorly dealt with by Shawal Anuar, and the Sabah midfielder’s long-range effort flew past the hapless Hassan into the bottom corner in the 50th minute.
England-born Wilkin was the night’s hero for the Malaysian fans as he added his team’s third goal four minutes later. Safawi did the hard work on the byline, feeding him the ball in the penalty box and Wilkin made no mistake with his effort.
There appeared to be a glimmer of hope in the closing stages of the game when Faris pulled a goal back in the 85th minute, but three minutes later, Argentinian-born Aguero extinguished all hopes of any comeback for the visitors.
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