Singapore’s Under-23 football team squandered a golden opportunity to get their SEA Games campaign off to a flying start today when they surrendered a dream 2-0 lead to eventually scramble a 2-2 draw with Indonesia.
National coach Terry Pathmanathan, who opted to field a lone striker against the Indonesians at the National Stadium in Vientiane, could scarcely believe his eyes when Singapore took the lead in the third minute, and doubled it 20 minutes later.
Alas, the former national skipper was left looking on in disbelief and horror as the Indonesians recovered from the two blows to secure the draw.
In fact, Singapore were fortunate to escape with a point in the end as the Indonesians grew in confidence in the second-half and constantly peppered the Singapore goal with shots from all angles and distances.
But a string of saves by Jasper Chan and poor finishing by the Indonesians saw the ragged and exhausted Singapore players heaving huge sighs of relief when the referee eventually blew the final whistle.
Yet, the result could have been so different for Singapore this evening, especially after defender Safuwan Baharudin connected sweetly with Shaiful Esah’s cross in the third minute to give Singapore a shock lead.
Twenty minutes later, it seemed as though Singapore was on their way to a famous victory when Shaiful curled a delightful freekick past the out-of-position Indonesian goalkeeper who was left clawing at air as the swerving ball stayed out of his reach before dipping into the net.
But it was the Indonesians who went into the break with the psychological advantage after striker Stevie Bonsapia pulled a goal back in the 41st minute.
The architect of that goal was Sultan Samma who dribbled his way into the Singapore box and drew everyone towards him at the left post before sending a pass across for the unmarked Bonsapia to tap into an empty net.
Confidence restored, the Indonesians started to dominate the match after the break and were unlucky not to score on a number of occasions.
Singapore also had to thank their lucky stars that Safuwan was not dismissed in the 51st minute after his very late trip on goal-bound striker Engel Berth Sani who had skipped past his initial challenge.
But Indonesia finally scored their much-deserved equaliser in the 64th minute when unmarked defender Rendi ran in to meet an inswinging corner and power home a header past the rooted Jasper.
Indonesia missed two more golden opportunities in the 81st and 85th minute.
In the former, only a late sliding tackle by defender Eddie Chang on Engel in the box prevented the Indonesian from having a clear strike at goal while Jasper was at full stretch four minutes later to tip over Ranchart’s screaming freekick.
Singapore did have one opportunity to steal the win in the dying seconds but Isa Halim’s 20m strike whizzed past the post.
A minute later, the final whistle sounded to leave Singapore rueing a wasted opportunity to win its opening Group B game.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan