Lions stun Malaysia with late fightback

Singapore scored two goals in the final three minutes of the game to salvage a 2-2 draw against Malaysia in the first leg of the Causeway Challenge on Friday.

Baihakki gets the better of Safee...

By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium

While officially labelled a two-legged friendly encounter, there was always going to be plenty of intensity in a game between two arch-rivals, and K. Rajagobal's men certainly looked headed for victory after substitute Azamuddin Akil and captain Safiq Rahim had given them a two-goal lead inside the opening hour.

Qiu Li then missed a chance to pull one back for Radojko Avramovic's men in the 83rd minute when he missed a controversial penalty, before referee Ng Kai Lam made an even more-questionable call to award an indirect freekick inside the box after apparently penalising Aidil Zafuan for dissent.

From 15 yards out, Shahdan Sulaiman made no mistake by curling in an effort, before Qiu made amends deep into stoppage time when he drilled a piledriver into the top corner from the edge of the area to cap off an unlikely comeback from Singapore.

With the memory of last year's FIFA World Cup qualifying elimination at the hands of the Lions still fresh in their minds, plenty of talk from the Malaysian camp in the build-up to the game had been centred around exacting vengeance on their arch-rivals.

However, it was Singapore who started the brighter of the two teams and they very nearly took the lead three minutes in when Shaiful Esah whipped in a cross onto the head of Agu Casmir, whose firm header forced a terrific save from Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.

Six minutes later, the visitors created their first chance when Safee Sali picked up the ball inside the area and took Baihakki Khaizan out of the equation with a sharp turn, only to see his drilled cross cleared away from the danger zone by Safuwan Baharudin.

Safuwan then very nearly made an impact at the other end in the 24th minute when he ventured forward for a corner and met Shaiful's delivery with a powerful header. Unfortunately for the hosts, Harimau captain Safiq was perfectly positioned at the post to clear off the line.

Singapore were beginning to dominate proceedings as their opponents struggled to cope with their aerial superiority but there was a distinct lack of clear-cut openings created by the hosts, and they were made to pay a minute before the break.

With a clever turn-and-pass, Azamuddin released Safee down the right-side of the area before making a follow-up run into the box, where he was then picked out by his team-mate, after a ingenious dummy from Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, and made no mistake from six yards out.

Highlights: Singapore 2-2 Malaysia.. More Videos

Four minutes after halftime, the Pahang winger almost found himself in another scoring opportunity when Norshahrul looked to play him in with a neat square ball, only for Baihakki to weigh in with a vital intervention.

However, the Lions stand-in captain turned villain on the hour mark when he conceded a needless foul on Norshahrul on the edge of the area, allowing Safiq to step up and double Malaysia's advantage with a brilliant freekick into the far corner.

With nothing to lose, Singapore began to push more and more men forward but they struggled to carve out a real opening until seven minutes from time when Ng inexplicably pointed to the spot after Khairul Nizam had fired a shot straight at Fahmi, before running straight into the Malaysia custodian and tumbling inside the area. Justice was arguably served as Qiu's effort from 12 yards was expertly saved by the Kelantan man.

Yet in a decision stranger than the original penalty call, the referee blew his whistle again and penalised Aidil for dissent before awarding the hosts an indirect freekick 15 yards out from goal. This time, the set-piece was left to Shahdan, who expertly curled an effort just inside the far post after Mustafic Fahrudin had tapped the ball into his path to give his side a glimmer of hope.

A minute from time, the Lions had another penalty shout after Nizam sneaked in behind the Malaysia defence and looked odds-on to race through on goal, only to be clattered into by Fahmi. On this occasion, Ng decided to turn down what looked a legitimate appeal.

However, Harimau were starting to get really rattled by now and three minutes into stoppage time, the hosts finally forced an equaliser after Shahdan cleverly laid the ball back to the edge of the area from a freekick down the right wing. With everyone expecting a cross into the box, Qiu had all the time in the world to set his sights and unleashed a ferocious first-time shot into the top corner to steal a draw for Singapore and send the home fans delirious.

Singapore: Izwan Mahbud, Irwan Shah (Qiu Li 46'), Safuwan Baharudin, Baihakki Khaizan, Shakir Hamzah (Safirul Sulaiman 76'), Yasir Hanapi (Shi Jiayi 46'), Isa Halim (Mustafic Fahrudin 46'), Hariss Harun, Shaiful Esah (Daniel Bennett 46'), Shahdan Sulaiman, Agu Casmir (Khairul Nizam 71').

Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Bunyamin Umar, Fadhli Shas, Aidil Zafuan (S. Subramaniam 88'), Azmi Muslim (Mahalli Jasuli 71'), Shahurain Abu Samah (Azamuddin Akil 35'), K. Gurusamy, Safiq Rahim, S. Kunanlan (S. Chanturu 79'), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Ahmad Shakir 74'), Safee Sali (Amar Rohidan 82').

Attendance: 5,985



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