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Looking back - 2007

Continuing our review of past editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, we go back to 2007 when Singapore edged Thailand to win the tournament for a third time.

With a haul of 10 goals, including a record-breaking seven in one game, Singapore's Noh Alam Shah was the outstanding player of the Asean Football Championship in 2007 and a deserving winner of the Most Valuable Player award.

But the decisive moment of the tournament came not from the prolific centre forward but from fellow striker Khairul Amri, who silenced the partisan Thai fans at the Supachalasai Stadium and clinched Singapore's third victory in the competition with a moment of individual brilliance.

With only nine minutes left and the aggregate score tied, Amri picked up the ball in the Thai half and accelerated past Datsakorn Thonglao. With two Thai defenders standing off, he took his opportunity as he entered the box and unleashed a drive with his right boot that swerved into the top corner of the net past a bemused Kittisak Rawangpa.

"I'll never forget that moment when he dribbled towards the goal and fired that shot into the net," says Alam Shah of the goal which secured a 1-1 draw for the Lions on the night and a 3-2 aggregate win.

"Amri was one of our outstanding young talents in that team and his goal was pure class and worthy of winning any final. I'm not the type of player who can score goals like that so I can appreciate the quality of it."

Amri's goal put a cap on a somewhat curious tournament in which Raddy Avramovic's resilient side often outlasted rather than outclassed their rivals as they drew five of their seven matches, topped their group on goal difference, won their semi-final on penalties and edged Thailand in the final thanks to a debateable penalty.

But in the end, they retained their title by going through the tournament without suffering a defeat to stretch their unbeaten record in the competition to 17 games. They also exorcised some of their old demons by defeating Malaysia and Thailand en route to the championship.

Singapore and Thailand were hosts for the tournament's group stage in January 2007 although the action had got under way in Bacolad two months earlier when Laos and hosts Philippines took the top two spots in the qualifying competition ahead of Cambodia, Brunei and Timor Leste to join the six seeded teams in the group stage.

Although the Filipinos and Laotians failed to sparkle in the competition proper, both would influence the outcome of their respective groups.

The Filipinos suffered 4-0 defeats against Malaysia and Thailand in their first two games in Bangkok but held Myanmar to a goalless draw in their final Group A game to deny the 2005 semi-finalists a place in the last four once again.

With Sarayoot Chaikamdee's header early in the second half helping the Thais to edge Malaysia 1-0, the co-host progressed as group winners with their beaten opponents also going through thanks to the big helping hand from the Filipinos.

Meanwhile, the young Laotian side made a bright start in Group B in Singapore when they took a shock lead in their opening match against Indonesia through Sounthalay Xaysongkham. Indonesia's class eventually told in the second-half as a brace by Atep helped them to a 3-1 win but the result would ultimately prove detrimental to Peter Withe's side.

With only one day separating each of the matchdays, Laos struggled to recover from the exertions of the opening game and made a bad start against Singapore as they went 2-0 down after only 11 minutes. With Alam Shah scoring seven goals, the Lions would eventually win 11-0 – their biggest ever international victory and the second largest in the competition after Indonesia's 13-1 demolition of Philippines in 2002.

Saktiawan Sinaga had rescued a 1-1 draw for Indonesia in their game against Vietnam with a stoppage-time equalised but the magnitude of Singapore's win meant that they had to beat the Lions in their final game to progress to the semi-finals. They battled hard and twice came back from deficits against the co-hosts but the 2-2 draw couple with Vietnam's 9-0 trouncing of Laos saw them fail to progress beyond the group stage for the first time and cost Withe his job as Indonesia coach.

Singapore's first-place finish set up a semi-final match against Malaysia, the first meeting in the competition between the two sides since the Tigers' stunning 4-0 win in the Lion City in 2002.

It was a tense affair through both legs as Singapore twice came from behind with Alam Shah's header cancelling out Hardi Jaafar's opener at the Shah Alam Stadium and Ridhuan's close-range strike helping his side to recover from falling behind to an Eddy Helmi goal at the National Stadium.

The match was decided by penalties with goalkeeper Lionel Lewis stopping Khyril Muhymeen's weak attempt to send the home side through to their second consecutive final, much to the delight of their fans at a packed National Stadium.

Alam Shah was a veteran of the infamous 2002 loss and he summed up just what it meant to avenge that defeat at the same venue.

"It was a wonderful moment for us after what happened in 2002. That defeat had brought tears to the players and to so many of our fans so we were determined to make amends in front of our fans and we did it by beating Malaysia to reach the final," he says.

While the Lions had exorcised the ghosts of 2002, the final presented an even older hoodoo as they faced Thailand, a team that they had not beaten in a competitive match in 30 years. The Thais had ousted Vietnam 2-0 on aggregate in the other semi-final and they looked to be the favourites for a fourth title despite losing their captain and talisman Kiatisuk Senamuang to a knee injury.

The first leg in Singapore was a tough physical contest with Alam Shah firing the Lions ahead after 17 minutes before Pipat Thonkanya levelled the contest five minutes after the break.

The match would be decided by a moment of huge controversy in the 82nd minute when Alam Shah went down in the Thai box under challenge by Niweat Siriwong as he attempted to get on the end of a Shi Jiayi free-kick. Television replays appeared to show little contact and there were no appeals by the Singapore players but the referee awarded a penalty much to the disgust of the Thai players, who walked off the pitch.

"For me, it was one of those decisions that some referees would give and some wouldn't," says Alam Shah. "I had my back to Niweat and I felt a slight nudge which caused me to fall and the referee awarded a penalty which I thought was a harsh decision especially after seeing the TV replay."

The Thais were finally persuaded to return 15 minutes later but Mustafic Fahruddin managed to keep his cool during the long stoppage to fire the resulting kick into the top corner of the net.

It gave Singapore a narrow advantage to take to Bangkok and they nearly extended their lead in the return game when Shahril Ishak tapped in after nine minutes only to see his effort controversially ruled out for offside.

The hosts took full advantage of that let-off and levelled the tie again in the 37th minute when Datsakorn's delicate chip over the Singapore back line found Pipat who nodded the ball past Aide Iskandar before he volleyed it into the net.

They then laid siege to the Singapore goal in the second half and nearly went ahead when Suchao Nutnum's shot was deflected over the crossbar by defender Noh Rahman's desperate block on the Singapore goalline.

However, they could not make the breakthrough and Singapore's resilience paid off when Amri came off the bench to fire home the decisive goal late on to secure the trophy once again for the Lions.


Philippines 1 Laos 2
Timor Leste 2 Brunei 3
Philippines 7 Timor Leste 0
Cambodia 2 Laos 2
Laos 3 Timor Leste 2
Brunei 1 Cambodia 1
Philippines 1 Cambodia 0
Brunei 1 Laos 4
Philippines 4 Brunei 1
Timor Leste 1 Cambodia 4

Final Rounds

Group A (Thailand)
Malaysia 4 Philippines 0
Thailand 1 Myanmar 1
Malaysia 0 Myanmar 0
Thailand 4 Philippines 0
Myanmar 0 Philippines 0
Thailand 1 Malaysia 0

Group B (Singapore)
Indonesia 3 Laos 1
Singapore 0 Vietnam 0
Indonesia 1 Vietnam 1
Singapore 11 Laos 0
Vietnam 9 Laos 0
Singapore 2 Indonesia 2

Malaysia 1 Singapore 1; Singapore 1 Malaysia 1
(aggregate 2-2. Singapore won 5-4 on penalties)
Vietnam 0 Thailand 2; Thailand 0 Vietnam 0
(Thailand won 2-0 on aggregate)

Singapore 2 Thailand 1; Thailand 1 Singapore 1
(Singapore won 3-2 on aggregate)