Singapore 1 Malaysia 3: Late goals send Harimau Malaya through

There was last-gasp drama at the National Stadium as defending champions Singapore crashed out 1-3 to archrivals Malaysia in injury time.

Safee Sali’s 61st-minute goal gave Malaysia the lead, before Khairul Amri levelled matters on 83 minutes.

Amri’s goal looked set to put Singapore through to the semi-finals, before a contentious penalty was awarded two minutes into injury time.

Amri Yahyah fell innocuously inside the box with no apparent contact, but Omani referee Al Kaf Ahmed Abu Bakar Said had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Safiq Rahim sent Singapore keeper Hassan Sunny the wrong way before Indra Putra Mahayuddin extinguished the Lions’ hopes with a breakaway goal.

The first half was a scruffy affair which saw both teams finding it hard to penetrate into the attacking third.

Singapore defender Shakir Hamzah, who stood in for the suspended Baihakki Khaizan, did well to shackle the twin threats of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Safee.

Meanwhile, Malaysian captain Shukor Adan, who was deployed at centre back, led his defence well to frustrate Amri and company.

Yahyah was the first player to get a decent shot in with his volley from a half-cleared corner just going over Hassan’s bar, while Fazrul Nawaz’s shot from a Faris Ramli cutback was easily blocked by Zubir Azmi.

Norshahrul then had a penalty claim turned away before Yahyah’s freekick eluded the bar. 

The visitors could have gone ahead just before half time when Ismadi Mukhtar’s clearance fell inadvertently into the path of Safee inside the box, but the Johor Darul Ta’zim striker’s effort rebounded off the post.

The second half was in stark contrast to the first.

The Lions could have gone one goal up four minutes after the restart, but Faris dragged his shot agonisingly wide after getting past three Malaysian shirts.

Shahfiq Ghani then lashed a shot from range over after being teed up by Shaiful Esah.

With Singapore failing to take their opportunities, the Malaysians grew in confidence and could have gone ahead themselves in the 56th minute.

Latching on to a ball over the top, Norshahrul got past the onrushing Hassan and could have put it into an empty net, if not for Shakir’s timely block. 

Substitute Hafiz Kamal then stung the Singapore custodian’s palms with a freekick from the tight angle, before they duly took the lead just after the hour mark.

Yahyah’s cross from the left evaded the reach of Hariss Harun, with the loose ball falling to Safee who thrashed a shot clinically past Hassan inside the box.

Singapore coach Bernd Stange reacted by introducing Gabriel Quak and Hafiz Sujad, with the former adding some impetus in the final third.

Meanwhile Amirul Adli came on for his Suzuki Cup debut minutes later to replace a jaded Shahfiq.

Safuwan Baharudin was moved into midfield, which proved to be an inspired move.

Brought down 30 yards from goal, the 23-year-old dusted himself off to take the resulting freekick.

His fierce shot was spilled by Malaysian keeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, before Amri reacted the fastest to turn home the rebound.

Buoyed by the goal, the Singaporeans created further opportunities just outside the box. Shahril had the chance to be the match-winner but saw his 20-yard freekick palmed wide by Khairul Fahmi.

That paved the way for the late drama as referee Al Kaf Ahmed Abu Bakar Said adjudged Amri Yahyah to have been fouled in the box.

Safiq made no mistake from 12 yards out to put the visitors 2-1 up two minutes into injury time.

There was still time for another after Shahril Ishak’s freekick was cleared by the Malaysians defenders.

With Singapore keeper Hassan in no man’s land after going up for the set piece, Indra Putra surged into the Lions’ half before slotting home into a gaping goal.

This result meant the Malaysians marched on into the last four of the tournament at the expense of the Lions.

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo