Malaysia 0 Singapore 3
Kuala Lumpur – Singapore kicked off their AFF Suzuki Cup in impressive fashion as a brace by captain Shahril Ishak helped them to a 3-0 win over defending champions Malaysia in their Group B opener at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Sunday.
Shahril silenced the home fans when he opened the scoring in the 32nd minute after he ran on to Shaiful Esah’s defence-splitting pass and fired past goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
And the Lions skipper extended the lead six minutes later after he capitalised on an error by Khairul Fahmi to head home from point blank range.
Malaysia lacked bite in attack and substitute Aleksandar Duric easily headed in Singapore’s third with 15 minutes left to complete a comprehensive win for the visitors.
While Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic did not expect his side to win so handily, he felt that the win was fully deserved.
“I thought we gave a good account of our ourselves. We concentrated well and the players were disciplined and at the end, they really put in a lot of effort to get this result,” he said.
“It was nice to get a good result like that in our opening game but now we must prepare for our game against Indonesia.”
However, Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal felt that the scoreline did not reflect the nature of the game.
“I didn’t expect that scoreline. I thought that we began positively but gave away a pair of sloppy goals,” he said.
“We played with desire in the second half half and put them under all the pressure but the goal didn’t come and although we showed energy and determination, we gave away another mistake for the third goal.
“We have to do it the hard way again and we have no choice but to win our next two games.
“It was disappointing and frustrating but I still have confidence although we will have to struggle to try to make it.”
Malaysia had struggled in their recent warm-up games but they showed plenty of attacking intent early on in front of their home fans.
In the seventh minute Norshahrul Idlan Talaha went past the challenge of two defenders on the right byline and tried to beat Izwan Mahbud at his near post but the Singapore goalkeeper stood firm.
The Malaysians had several free-kicks in the Singapore half during the first 20 minutes of the game but Aidil Zafuan Radzak and Safiq Rahim failed to really trouble Izwan’s goal with their efforts.
The Malaysian goal was not rarely troubled until the half-hour mark when the ball fell to Shahdan Sulaiman on the edge of the box but the winger fired his opportunity over.
But two minutes later, Singapore took the lead thanks to a fine finish by Shahril. The Lions skipper gathered in a diagonal pass by Shaiful Esah from the left flank and beat a defender for pace before he fired the ball past Khairul Fahmi into the roof of the net.
Shahril then got his second in the 38th minute after a major blunder by Khairul Fahmi. The Malaysia goalkeeper came out to meet Shahdan Sulaiman’s free-kick from the left flank but he only succeeded in punching it towards his own goalmouth. Fadhli Shas managed to head the ball off his goalline but Shahril was on hand to help it over.
Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor came on for Khyril Muhymeen Zambri at half-time but Malaysia struggled to create an effect response after the break as the Lions looked to defend their advantage.
Haikal looked to have an opening in the 58th minute when the ball fell to him on the right of the Singapore box but he was quickly closed down by Safuwan Baharuddin who blocked his shot.
There appeared to be another great opportunity in the 81st minute when the Malaysians launched a quick counter-attack. Substitute Mahalli Jasuli had three players to aim for in the centre but his cross from the right was too close to Izwan, who gathered in front of Safee Sali.
Aidil made a great tackle to deny Shahril a hat-trick shortly afterwards but the Lions would make it 3-0 with 15 minute left when Shahdan’s cross from the left picked out a completely unmarked Duric, who headed home from inside the six-yard box.
In the closing minutes, Izwan was called into action to stop a long-range piledriver from Aidil and he was then beaten by a shot by Norshahrul in stoppage time but the ball came right back to the goalkeeper off his left upright.
The win for the Lions sent them two points clear of Indonesia and Laos at the top of Group B.