KUALA LUMPUR (25 Nov 2012) – The nightmarish memories of two years ago when Malaysia were thrashed 5-1 by Indonesia in their opening match came crashing back when history repeated itself at the National Stadium here tonight.
Two years on, Singapore rose to the occasion and whipped Malaysia 3-0 in the opening match of AFF Suzuki Cup 2012.The only difference this time around was Malaysia were starting as the defending champions.
The Lions were in roaring form and took their chances well to send the Malaysians to the bottom of Group B. Singapore top the group followed by Indonesia and Laos who have a point each after a 2-2 draw in the openng game.
IN tonight’s match, Datuk K. Rajagobal’s team kicked off under tremendous pressure. But to their credit, they started well but were unable to score off any of the four well positioned free kicks they had within the first 25 minutes.
Earlier in the eighth minute, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, recently voted MVP in the Malaysian League for the third consecutive year, weaved his way past three defenders along the touchline but his shot was saved by Mohamed Izwan.
Around the 30th minute, Singapore skipper Mohamed Shahril Ishak’s crisp attempt swerved right. That would signify the beginning of Shahril’s brilliant blitz.
Just three minutes on, Shahril broke through and whacked in the opener. Five minutes on, Shahril silneced the 30,000 home fans to score again thanks to what Malaysian coach Datuk K. Rajagobal would describe as sloppy defending.
Malaysia tried to launch a comeback after the break, and they did to a certain degeree, but the goal just never came. Norshahrul threw everything he had but all is attempts drew blanks. So did Safee Sali’s tries.
At 41, Alexander Duric is the oldest player in the tournament but he proved age was no barrier to being a goal-poacher. For that was what he did in the 75th minute, just three minutes after coming on for Shahril. He waited in the centre and easily nodded in a cross from the left.
In the dying minutes, Norshahrul crashed through the defence and slammed his shot which hit the left post and rebound directly into the arms of goalkeeper Mohamed Izwan.
Datuk K. Rajagopal said: “I did not expect the score, maybe 1-0 or a draw, but not this. We conceded two sloppy goals, in the 32nd and 38th minutes.
“Those goals should not have gone in but despite that the team managed to pull together and you could see that in the second half when we controlled the game for a good 30 minutes. All we needed was one goal but it did not happen. Then they scored a third.”
Raddy Avramovic meanwhile praised his players for their outstanding performance. “The players did a great job tonight. It was a great effort by the players. I would have been happy with 1-0 win but we are always looking for goals. It’s a good start for a first game.”