Source : www.soccernet.com
SINGAPORE, January 27 (Asean Football Championship) – Defending champions Singapore advanced to the final of the Asean Football Championship after defeating arch-rivals Malaysia in a tense penalty shootout at the National Stadium on Saturday. •
With the aggregate score tied at 2-2 after extra time, the match went to the shootout with Singapore goalkeeper Lionel Lewis emerging as the hero, stopping Khyril Muhymeen's weak attempt to give the home side a 5-4 victory. Malaysia had taken the lead in the game in the 57th minute after Eddy Helmi's shot was fumbled by Lewis, but Muhammad Ridhuan levelled the score with 15 minutes remaining to force the match into extra time and penalties.
Singapore will meet the winners of the second semi-final between Thailand and Vietnam with the first leg of the final in the Lion City on Wednesday night. Roared on by a capacity crowd of 55,000, the home side dominated the opening half but created few clear-cut openings against Malaysia's well-organised back line. Shi Jia Yi went close to giving the Lions the lead in the ninth minute when he caught the Malaysian defence and goalkeeper Mohamad Syamsuri by surprise with a free kick from the right of the Malaysian box that went just over the crossbar. Noh Alam Shah nearly bagged his 10th goal in five games on the half-hour after being sent clear by Ridhuan's quick pass but the close attention of Mohammed Khaironisam managed to put off the Singapore striker and his weak shot failed to seriously test Syamsuri. Malaysia offered little in the opening half but could have taken the lead against the run of play on 37 minutes when an excellent through ball by K.Nanthakumar sent Hairuddin Omar clear from the halfway line. The Malaysian striker appeared to have a clear run on goal but right back Daniel Bennett made up enough ground to block the shot with Shukor Adan, following up, ballooning the ball over the unguarded Singapore net. Singapore turned up the pressure at the start of the second half and Khaironisam had to be alert to cut off a cross by Bennett just before it could reach Alam Shah on 47 minutes. Singapore were in the ascendancy but were caught out by a sucker punch on 57 minutes when the ball fell to an unmarked Eddy Helmi on the edge of the box. The Malaysian midfielder fired in a low shot that should have been easily handled by Lewis but the Singapore goalkeeper dived too early, allowing the ball to bounce over his sprawling body and bobble across the line to give Malaysia a 1-0 lead. Singapore were facing their first defeat in the competition since a 4-0 hammering by the Malaysians at the same venue in December 2002 but they were back on level terms with 15 minutes remaining. Bennett's cross from the left flank was knocked down at the far post by Alam Shah into the path of a charging Ridhuan, who forced the ball in on the goal line past a flailing Syamsuri. With time running out, the hosts nearly grabbed a winner as Alam Shah's cross from the right was headed over by substitute Khairul Amri. There were few chances of note in the first period of extra time but shortly after the restart, Malaysia nearly broke the deadlock when Shukor Adan got goalside of Baihakki Khaizan but Lewis made amends for his earlier error by smothering Adan's shot at his near post. Singapore nearly found the target in the 110th minute when a goal-bound shot by Bennett was headed clear by Hairuddin Omar and five minutes later, Precious Emuerjeraye launched a fierce drive from 40 metres that was tipped over by Syamsuri. With no further scoring, the match went to a shootout with Singapore making no mistakes as Indra Sahdan, Alam Shah, Mustafic Fahruddin, Fazrul Nawaz and Shi Jiayi all converted their attempts. Malaysia's Hardi Jaafar, Rezal Zambery, Sanramsak Kram, and V.Thirumurugan also scored before Khyril Muhymeen saw his weak attempt saved by Lewis to send the defending champions through to the final.