Singapore found a second-half winner to defeat hosts Malaysia 1-0 and progress to the final of the Airmarine Cup 2019 at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
The Singapore Lions will now face Oman, who thrashed Afghanistan 5-0 in the other game, for the rights to lift the maiden Airmarine Cup on March 23, while Malaysia will take on the Afghans in a third-place play-off on the same day.
Here are the five major talking points from a close-yet-entertaining Causeway Derby…
1) Singapore unlucky not to run away with the game!
— Padang Bola Sepak 🇲🇾 (@padangbolasepak) March 20, 2019
Nazri Nasir might have come to the match with a makeshift team, but it certainly didn’t look that way in the opening minutes of this game. Yasir Hanapi was involved in most of the good things Singapore did in that early exchanges, but it was the experienced Malaysia custodian Khairul Fahmi who stood in his way. Tampines Rovers star Yasir first got behind the Malaysian defence, but failed to beat the goalkeeper and then fired an effort from the edge of the box straight at the keeper. Khairul was also at hand to deny Khairul Amri as he kept his team in he game!
2) Norshahrul has a night to forget at Bukit Jalil
He was the hero for Malaysia as they reached the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018, but the Norshahrul Idlan Talaha we saw in the first half against Singapore was a far cry from the one on display in the regional tournament last year. Mat Yo was a peripheral figure in the whole of 45 minutes and struggled to match the pace of the game, thereby taking the sharpness of Harimau Malaya’s attacks. His misery was cut short by Tan Cheng Hoe who took off the veteran striker at half time. But, it is obvious that it is high time that young strikers from Malaysia step up to dethrone Norshahrul or it is likely that the national team could struggle in their upcoming endeavours.
3) Hosts resurgent in the second half
Malaysia came back after the lime break a different unit and their captain Zaquan Adha led the charge as they threatened to undo all the good work Singapore had done in the first half. Chances fell for Zaquan himself, Matthew Davies, Nor Azam and Mohamadou Sumareh but bad finishing, Lions goalkeeper Izhan Mahbud and wrong choices let the host nation down. Malaysia looked a far better unit in the second half, but the finishing was what was missing from the Tan Cheng Hoe side.
4) Singapore find a deserved winner!
While Malaysia were on the rise, Singapore administered the coupe de grace with the winner in the 82nd minute! Faris Ramli did well to break free of his marker, went one-on-one with the goalkeeper and calmly slotted it past him to score the opening goal with eight minutes left on the clock. That goal proved to be the most decisive one and not many would argue that it wasn’t a deserved one for the Singaporeans.
5) Embarrassment for Malaysia
It is safe to say that Malaysia’s mission to make it’s national team one of the best in Asia has begun on the wrong foot on the field. According to the Football Association of Malaysia, the Airmarine Cup was one of the first steps in their 12-year roadmap named F:30 to take the national team to greater heights, however, Malaysia wouldn’t be in contention when the final to decide the first winner of the Airmarine Cup takes place this Saturday. While the 165th-ranked Singapore face 90th-ranked Oman, Malaysia, No. 167 in FIFA World Rankings, will instead face Afghanistan who are just 20 places above them in a third-place play-off. And that wouldn’t be exactly how the Malaysian football administrators would have wanted things to pan out.