Singapore have progressed to the final of the Airmarine Cup after an 82nd minute goal from Faris Ramli was enough to see off their historic rivals Malaysia.
Perhaps predictably both sides started nervously and seemed to struggle to keep possession in the early stages of the game. However, the cool calm and classy Hariss Harun started to dictate things in midfield and the Lions began to take control. Singapore had the best chances of the first half as they broke with pace on a number of occasions. If they had shown a little more calm in front of goal, or if Malaysian goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi hadn't been in top form, they would have gone in at half time deservedly ahead.
It looked like more of the same at the start of the second half as Singapore created a number of chances in the first few minutes and seemed to be keeping possession well. This was not to last and the hosts slowly began to stamp their authority on the game. Malaysia managed to break quickly down the right in the 50th minute and Zaquan Adha Radzak found himself clear through only to see his shot well saved by the feet of Izwan Mahbud.
The Malaysian striker could perhaps have done better despite the tight angle. This attack was a turning point in the match and over the next 15 minutes the Tigers created at least 5 golden opportunities to take the lead. Singapore defended desperately and were lucky to stay in the game, they were helped by some poor finishing from Malaysia with Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak guilty on at least two more occasions.
Much of Malaysia best play came down the right via the fleet-footed Mohamadou Sumareh and the impressive Matthew Davies, both of who also wasted chances to take the lead. The hosts' wastefulness in front of goal was exemplified in the 67th minute when Mohamadou Sumareh powered his way in from the right wing towards goal only to cross the ball into empty space.
Singapore continued to withstand heavy pressure but began to keep hold of the ball a little better as both sets of players began to tire. As space began to open up Malaysia still seemed to more likely to score but against the run of play, in the 82nd minute, Faris Ramli found himself behind the defence with just the goalkeeper to beat.
The Hougang United forward, who has started the season so well, demonstrated the composure that the Malaysians had been lacking and calmly tucked the ball into the back of the net. Malaysia never looked like getting back into it after that as their heads dropped. Faris went on another run towards the end and skipped past a couple of defenders and was perhaps unfortunate not to get his shot away.
A historic win for the Lions who showed determination and composure to beat Malaysia in their own backyard. However, it must be noted that they did not need to contend with the expected hostile atmosphere as many of Malaysia's most passionate fans chose to boycott the game to protest the high ticket prices. A crowd of less than 4,000 filled the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Next up for Singapore is the impressive looking Oman who easily overcame Afghanistan, beating them 5-0 in the opening game of the tournament. Victory for Singapore will see them crowned champions on the 23rd March. For Malaysia, they have nothing but pride, and a few world ranking points to play for when they take on Afghanistan.