SONGHKLA, Thailand, AP
Malaysia defeated Cambodia 3-2 in a preliminary Group B match of the Tiger Cup Thursday, and now faces defending champion Singapore in a decisive match for a semifinal berth. Cambodia, down 0-3, gave Malaysia some anxious minutes when Pok Chantan scored in the 73rd minute. In the 86th minute, skipper Hok Sochetra converted a penalty, awarded after B. Rajnikandh brought him down, to make it 2-3. But the Malaysians played out the remanning time without conceding any ground to clinch the hard-fought victory. Malaysia began well with a 20th minute lead after Azman Adnan converted a penalty. It was awarded when Hairuddin Omar’s head toward the goal struck a defender’s hand and referee Hidayat Sudrajat pointed to the spot. The second goal came in the 47th minute, coming off Hairuddin’s head after Rajnikandh had swung in a perfect cross from the left. The third goal arrived in the 62nd minute through skipper Ahmad Sharul Azhar with a stupendous shot form 20 meters out. “We were a bit complacent after taking a 3-0 lead and let in two goals. The first one I thought was rather silly,” Malaysian coach Abdul Rahman Ibrahim said. “But we were tired in the second half and our performance took a down turn. But still a win is a win and I am happy with the three points,” he said.
Singapore 3, Laos 0 Defending champions Singapore were made to struggle here Thursday for their 3-0 victory over a gritty Laos team to notch up their second win in the Tiger Cup competition. Singapore were expected to win the Group B clash easily at the Tinsulanon Stadium but Laos had other ideas and were unlucky not to put away at least two goals. Laos, in their best performance to date in the competition, defended in numbers to limit Singapore to only three goals, an improvement on the five goals they conceded in their first match against Malaysia.
Singapore, as expected, dominated from the start and were rewarded with an early goal in the 8th minute through Mohamed Rafi Mohamed Ali who sent in a powerful header from a left field cross. Eight minutes later captain Mohamed Nazri Nasir saw his header sail just wide of the lefthand post but Singapore finally made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute. Mohamed Noor Mohamed Ali chipped a perfect pass to skipper Nasir and he made no mistake with his shot. Laos did create some chances but never really looked like scoring in the first half. However in the second half the footballing minnows matched their opponent’s skills and troubled them with some dangerous moves. They should have scored in the 86th minute when Homsombath Khonsavanh saw his powerful freekick from just outside the penalty area well saved by Singapore goalkeeper Mohamed Yazid Mohamed Yasin. As the second half wore on Singapore seemed to lose their sting in attack and could not convert their chances — a worrying point for coach Vincent Subramaniam with a tough match against Vietnam looming on Saturday. But they finally managed to net their third and final goal when substitute Steven Tan slammed in a shot from close range in injury time.