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SINGAPORE — The SEA Games men's football gold medal will remain elusive for Singapore, after the Young Lions drew 2-2 with Malaysia in their must-win Group B match at the Thien Troung Stadium on Saturday (14 May).
After completing their group-stage games, Singapore have five points from four matches. Following Thailand's 5-0 win over Cambodia in the evening match, both Malaysia and Thailand have pushed the Young Lions out of the top two spots required to advance into the semi-finals.
It will be the fourth consecutive SEA Games in which Singapore have failed to advance out of the opening group stage. The last time they managed to reach the semi-finals was at the 2013 Naypyidaw Games, where they earned a bronze medal, and the last time they had reached the football final was back in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur.
Yet, they could have given themselves a lifeline, as they battled back from the setback of an early goal. Under pressure from the pressing Malaysians in the fourth minute, defender Harhys Stewart was robbed of possession in his own box, as Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi eventually set up danger man Luqman Hakim to slam home.
Within three minutes, however, Singapore equalised in superb fashion, as midfielder Shah Shahiran latched onto a loose ball and fired an unstoppable shot from nearly 30 metres out.
The matches was typically fiery between the two traditional arch-rivals, and while Malaysia were more comfortable on the ball, Singapore threatened with their fast counter-attacks.
As the match reached the 78th minute, the Young Lions went ahead when Stewart latched onto a free-kick and poked the ball past Azri Ghani on his second attempt, as the Singapore bench celebrated wildly at going in front.
However, Malaysia hit back in the 82nd minute, when Faiz Amer Runnizar rose highest to head home from a corner, leaving Singapore on the verge of elimination.
There was also disappointment in the fencing arena, as foil fencer Maxine Wong came in second in the women's individual final for a second consecutive Games.
Wong, 21, had lost to compatriot Amita Berthier at the 2019 Games, but with Berthier not participating in this edition, she had hoped to finally land the gold against the Philippines Samantha Kyle Catantan at the My Dinh Indoor Games Gymnasium.
But despite leading Cantantan 9-8 in the final - with the Filipino having to take two medical time-outs to tend to an injured right wrist - Wong made a series of tactical errors that allowed Catantan to come back for a 14-12 victory.
"After the break, I was a little bit too passive and she ended up being able to come and score more. And even when I attacked, I didn't go to the right target," she told The Straits Times after her finals loss.
"It hurts to have been so close again, but I'll go back and continue to work on what I have to work on and hopefully be better next time."