KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s lack of focus cost them a spot in the final of the Airmarine Cup, when they lost 1-0 to causeway rivals Singapore in front of 3,000 spectators at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here on Wednesday (March 20).
In the 81st minute, Khairul Amri capitalised on Malaysia’s casual defending when he threaded a pass through Shahrul Saad and Irfan Zakaria, in which Faris Ramli obliged by slotting the ball past a hapless Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
Malaysia had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but Singapore had the better chances in the match.
In the span of three minutes, Singapore could have drawn first blood through winger Yasir Hanapi, but three of his chances in the 11th, 12th and 13th minute were thwarted by the impressive Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
Malaysia’s best chance came in the 18th minute when Irfan Zakaria’s header off a Nor Azam Azih’s corner went wide.
Syazwan Zainon, who was a livewire on the left, could have given Malaysia the lead, but his freekick in the 20th minute was inches over the bar.
In the second half, coach Tan Cheng Hoe gave Abdul Halim Saari his national debut by substituting Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, and the move paid dividends as a packed midfield stunted Singapore’s counter attacking approach.
Malaysia had the best chances of the half, and could have scored through captain Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak, but the veteran striker squandered his chances in the 62nd and 64th minute.
Singapore’s resolute stance paid off in the 81st minute, as they scored the solitary goal of the game and they will now face Oman in the final on Saturday (March 23).
Malaysia will be facing Afghanistan, who were thrashed 5-0 by Oman, in the 3rd-4th placing match, which will be held on Saturday, too.