Few could argue that the Omani referee had a good game. Constantly letting fouls go and seemingly favouring the visiting team, the man in the middle epitomised his poor performance with an injury-time penalty for the Malaysians – a penalty that could never have been awarded, no matter which way you look at it.
Still, some fault still lay on the Singapore team for their exit in the group stages, when they had the advantage of only requiring a draw to progress. Singapore started the game and played the first-half with the mindset of obtaining a draw, and could have been duly punished when Malaysian striker Safee Sali struck the post. He did give the Malaysians the lead in the second-half when he pounced on the loose ball in the box to finish high into the roof of Hassan Sunny’s net. Khairul Amri managed to poach an equaliser in the 83th minute, after latching onto the goalkeeper’s rebound from Safuwan Baharudin’s free-kick. And that should have sent the home side through, with another two dangerous free-kicks threatening to seal the contest and take qualification away from the Malaysians.
thorn in the Singapore side throughout the contest
However, the referee did himself, and Singapore, no favours by awarding an extremely soft penalty, somehow finding it within himself to adjudge substitute Hafiz Sujad to have pushed the back of a Malaysian attacker in the box. With Safiq Rahim converting the resultant penalty, Hassan Sunny joined a Singapore corner, which saw him caught upfield, ultimately allowing Indra Putra to breakaway and seal the win with a simple shot from 30 yards out.
heartbreak for the Singaporeans right at the death
Some positives can be taken out of this disappointing result and knockout for Singapore, and here are the player ratings:
Hassan Sunny (rating – 6): Had a good first-half commanding his box and plucking a few crosses from the air. Almost let the Malaysian striker squeeze a shot through him, which thankfully for him, Safuwan was back on scene to clear the danger. Could do nothing about the goals, unfortunate to concede three.
Ismadi Mukhtar (5): Caught upfield on occasion in the first-half, with his poor clearance leading to Safee Sali striking the post. Tried to bomb forward when Singapore searched for their equalisers, but was largely ineffective.
Safuwan Baharudin (7): Worked well with his defensive partner and handled both Malaysian forwards, though on one occasion, they both left too much space for the striker to get one-on-one with Hassan Sunny. However, his wonderful free-kick led to Khairul Amri’s equaliser and one that needs to go abroad to have any chance of fulfilling his potential as a top-class defender in the Asian region as a whole, not just in ASEAN.
Shakir Hamzah (6): Individually, had an average game, but as mentioned, worked well with Safuwan. Produced a couple of good blocks.
Shaiful Esah (5): Could not influence the game with his famed left foot. Caught out for Malaysia’s first goal, though could point to his knock in the first-half that reduced his mobility. Taken off around the hour mark and Singapore lost one key offensive outlet.
Fazrul Nawaz (4): Did not have the beating of his full-back, and disappointed when given the opportunity to cross. Could not link up with Khairul Amri, as evident from a couple of poor passes that broke down a few potential attacks for Singapore. Could have been hauled off earlier at half-time.
Shahril Ishak (6): Playing in a more withdrawn role, Shahril struggled in the first-half with the defensive duties of a central midfielder. Was impatient at times when he could have jockeyed his man instead of lunging in for the tackle. After the break, managed to go forward to try to dictate play more, and had a good free-kick saved after Singapore’s equaliser.
Hariss Harun (9): Super unfortunate to be on the losing side, the clear man-of-the-match for either side in this game. Absolutely bossed the midfield. Was strong, combative, breaking up the play as well as driving forward when possible. Made some decisive tackles and showed good control of the ball in midfield. Tried to drive his team forward, especially in the search for the first equaliser. Displayed great leadership qualities and surely the next Singapore captain. Like Safuwan, desperately needs to go abroad to fulfil his vast potential and push his game up to the next level. Europe beckons, if he is so willing.
Faris Ramli (6): Pretty lightweight for most of the game, and well shackled by his full-back in the first-half. But after the break, Faris showed more flair and used his pace more effectively. Could have delivered the ball better on many occasions, but at least had one mazy run that led to a shot which whizzed past the post. Has a good future with the national squad.
Shafiq Ghani (4): Like Fazrul, had a poor game from the No.10 position. Could not influence the game and his set-pieces were not up to scratch. Might have been better starting ahead of Fazrul on the right flank, cutting in onto his favoured left foot.
amri: real workhorse up front
Khairul Amri (6): Had a decent game with several good target man play. Managed to battle well with the Malaysian centre-backs, having several flick-ons for teammates and as a ever willing runner, was a good out ball for his team. Tried to take on the defence on a few occasions, and deserved his poacher-like goal, especially as he was already on the move right when Safuwan took the free-kick.
Gabriel Quak (for Fazrul Nawaz 62”) (5): Tried to use his pace to get at the full-back, but the quality of his delivery was often found wanting.
Hafiz Sujad (for Shaiful Esah 62”) (6): Despite conceding that unfortunate penalty, Hafiz did well in place of Shaiful Esah, and drove forward well a few times, linking up with Faris on the left flank.
Adli Amirul (for Shafiq Ghani 75”) (6): Battled well and defended stoutly. Was brave in the tackle, and after Singapore’s equaliser, was strong and combative. Has a decent future in the national team.