I just came back from the Singapore vs. Malaysia semi-final match of the ASEAN Football Championships. With the score 1-1 at the end of normal time, the match went into Penalties, from which Singapore emerged triumphant (five conversions to Malaysia’s four).
It was a rocking affair at the Kallang Stadium (Singapore’s National Stadium), with almost all the seats filled up (I believe it was announced that 55,000 spectators turned up to watch this match). The atmosphere was fantastic, definitely much better than the last time Singapore played Malaysia here in 2002 (Malaysia won 4-0 then), where the stadium was largely left unfilled.
This is the third time I watched Singapore at the Kallang Statdium, the first time being their exhibition match against Manchester United (where we lost 8-1) in 2001, and the second time the fateful 4-0 drubbing by Malaysia back in 2002.
When Malaysia went into the lead midway through the second half (due to a horrible mistake by Lionel Lewis) I thought I was going to witness yet another defeat. But Singapore managed to scramble a goal to equalise, forcing the game into extra time, and giving us fans some great value for our money.
The goal sent the crowd crazy. All of us in the stadium (save for the Malaysian fans) stood up in unison and cheered. The feeling was indescribable. The minutes after that though, Malaysia started attacking with more vigor, causing us a few scares here and there, but nothing much else.
A Precious Shot
During the first half of extra time, a player by the name of “Precious” (yes! Isn’t that name simply adorable??) made a cracker of a shot from distance, which cannoned toward the top left-hand corner of the goal. The goalkeeper managed to get a hand to that shot, just managing to tip it over the bar.
For me, watching that shot alone was enough to justify the price of admission (a paltry S$6).
I noticed that immediately afterwards the Malaysian goalkeeper seemed a little flustered; he may well have been injured his hand saving it.
Into the Penalty Shootout
All the shots seemed normal and none were out of the ordinary, except for the last one.
As the Malaysian player stepped up to take the kick, the whole stadium booed and stamped their feet. The tension in the atmosphere went up a notch.
When he kicked the ball, it seemed to slowly make its way toward the goal. It was a horrendous shot. My friend remarked that eve if the goalkeeper had dived the other way, he’d have had enough time to get up, dive the other way, and save the shot. But he didn’t have to. Lionel Lewis guessed right and made the save. Easy as Pi.
Singapore Boleh! Ole ole ole! On to the final!