Hosts Singapore inched closer for a place in the semi-finals of the SEA Games this year following their close 3-1 win over Cambodia in a Group A here at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Two quick goals at the tail end of an exhilarating first half gave Singapore some relief before Cambodia struck back with their only goal of the game after the break.
The hosts then added their third goal of the game right at the end.
“I am delighted to have scored today with the freekic,” said Safirul Sulaiman who scored the opener for Singapore with a brilliantly taken freekick.
“I was always looking for an opportunity to score in the last few matches, so I’m glad that I managed to do it today. I dedicate the goal and Singapore’s win to my parents who came to the stadium to watch me play.”
Singapore came into the game, needing to win to make sure that they are within a parting shot of a place in this year’s semi-finals.
And they certainly made their intention early with a second minute effort from Muhammad Faris Ramli just a tad off the mark.
But Cambodia were not making it easy and in spite of the thumping they received at the hands of Indonesia a few days earlier, they showed none of the trauma as they passed the ball around and played a compact game to frustrate the Singaporeans.
An indirect freekick inside the box when Chinese referee Ma Ning deemed Cambodia had played a back pass that was scooped up by keeper Um Serei Rath, came no nothing as Irfan Fandi nor Faris had any real idea of what to do with the presented chance.
As the game wore on and the match turned physical with several stoppages, a freekick on the right just before the break gave Singapore the reprieve they sorely needed.
And Safirul was right on the money with a curling shot to the far post.
Barely 20seconds later and Singapore doubled the advantage when a mistake from Um Serei allowed Faris to head the ball home.
Into the second half, and Cambodia did not lose their focus as they maintained very much the same way they had done in the first half. But the introduction of Chan Vathanaka changed the pace for Cambodia.
Pairing up well with captain Prak Mony Udom, the duo was at the centre of the Cambodian goal with Prak the provider as Chan then headed home the goal in the 57th minute.
Brimming with confidence, Cambodia pushed forward in search of the equalizer for their first point of the competition. But tried as hard as they could with Chinn Chouen coming close but still Singapore stood firm.
And right at the death, Singapore made sure of the three points off a lob from G. Pravin for Mohamad Sahil Suhaimi to run in with the ball and beat Um Serei for the third time on the night.
“Had it not been for the several questionable calls from the referee (Ma Ning from China), I believe that the match could have gone either way. I don’t need to explain, as you all saw the game,” added Cambodian team manager Chhiang Pidseth afterwards.
In the meantime across town at the Bishan Stadium, Malaysia struggled before they were able to overcome Brunei 2-0.
Both goals came late in the second half.
Substitute Muhammad Abu Hassan Saari grabbed the opener in the 71st minute before Adam Nor Azlin scored the second goal six minutes later.
RESULTS – 8 June 2015
Brunei 0 Malaysia 2
Cambodia 1 Singapore 3