NAM DINH, May 14 – Malaysia lost the chance to be the first football team to qualify for the semi-finals of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA) after drawing 2-2 with traditional rivals Singapore in their third Group B match at Thien Truong Stadium here today.
The result snaps a two-game winning streak against Thailand and Laos and makes the final game against Cambodia the decider in their quest to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition.
The game against Singapore was hotly contested from the start, and Malaysia wasted no time in taking the lead thanks to Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, who deftly found a free space in the penalty area and scored a blistering goal in the fourth minute.
It is his third goal in the Biennial Games after his two goals against Laos last Wednesday.
However, it took Singapore just three minutes to respond as Malaysia goalkeeper Muhammad Azri Ab Ghani failed to stop an attempt from outside the box by Singapore midfielder Nur Muhammad Shah Shahiran.
Things got exciting as both sides launched attacks, and Malaysia nearly succeeded with a 25th-minute effort from striker Ahmad Danial Ahmad Asri, which was blocked by Singapore captain and goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam Abdullah.
Luqman Hakim had a golden chance to add his first goal in the 32nd minute after receiving a fine pass from his teammate but his shot failed to get past the vigilant Zaiful Nizam.
As half-time approached, Malaysia threatened again but defender Harith Haiqal Adam Afkar’s header floated just above the top post, leaving the two teams tied at 1-1 at the end of the first half.
Both teams played with intensity in the second half, but there was no real attempt from either team until the 76th minute when Singapore striker Kweh Jia Jin Glenn sent his shot over the goal.
Two minutes later, however, Harhys Rizal midfielder Gareth Ian Stewart finally put Singapore in charge after entering the penalty area to score the free kick from team-mate Nur Muhammad.
That didn’t deter the Malaysians from trying to equalise, however, which they did thanks to a Muhammad Faiz Amer Runnizar header from an 82nd-minute corner.
Tensions increased late in the game and the game had to be stopped for a time due to a pushing incident between the players as both teams continued to play aggressively.
While the 2-2 scoreline at the end of the final whistle meant that Malaysia were not the first team to qualify from their group, the draw ended any chance of Singapore qualifying for the semi-finals as they had just five points from four matches. .
Malaysia currently have seven points and top the group, with the two semi-final spots still up for grabs. The remaining teams Cambodia and Thailand will face off in their group game tonight.
If either team were to triumph tonight, that would secure Malaysia’s place in the semi-finals. — Bernama