Singapore captured the first golds of the 25th South-east Asian Games today when our national water-polo team defeated Thailand 8-5 in the final match of their round-robin tournament in Vientiane, Laos.
The result meant that Singapore finished top of the four-nation competition with three wins. The Republic had defeated Indonesia 14-1 and the Philippines 8-1 in earlier matches.
It also means that Singapore has won the water-polo title for the 23rd consecutive time. Our national water-polo team has never been been dethroned in the regional Games since its inception in 1965.
Singapore did play poorly in the first half and even trailed Thailand 2-3 at the break. But the players bounced back to turn the deficit into eventual victory.
As our water-polo team celebrated in the pool, there was also joy in the football field as the Under-23 team defeated Myanmar 2-1 to secured their first group stage win of the competition.
Defender Shaiful Esah was once again the architect of Singapore’s two goals. His sweet left foot curled in two accurate crosses, one in the 14th minute and the second in the 28th minute.
The first one was once again met by defender Safuwan Baharudin who rose above the Myanmar defence to head home his second goal of the tournament. The goal was identical to the one the 18-year-old scored against Indonesia two days back.
Singapore’s second goal was also identical to the first as defender Hariss Harun ran into the box, launched himself forward and torpedoed the ball with his head past the fully-stretched Myanmar goalkeeper.
However, as Singapore celebrated, there were fears that the team would squander the two-goal lead again, just as they did against Indonesia.
And in the 89th minute, it seemed as though that nightmare was going to repeat itself when M yanmar’s Soe Min Oo sprinted past two Singapore defenders into the box and flicked the ball past advancing Singapore keeper Hyrulnizam Jumaat.
But despite showing signs of increasing nervousness as the four minutes of stoppage time ticked away, the Singapore players did enough to keep their Myanmarese opponents at bay before celebrating wildly when the referee blew the final whistle.
Singapore will meet Laos in their next group match on Thursday, and need only a draw to advance to the semi-finals. However, they will need to be wary of the hosts which defeated Indonesia 2-0. The team will also be without Safuwan who is suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament.
The Singapore Sports Fan would like to congratulate both the water-polo team and the footballers for their hard-earned victories today. Great work, guys! Thank you for playing with so much pride and passion.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan