Saturday, July 30, 2011

Causeway Aftermath ST 29/7: : Never more proud - Poor refereeing and tough fouls did not faze Lions, says Avramovic

'That was the most important goal of my career. It was so sweet to score in front of the Malaysian fans.'

SHI JIAYI, Singapore's goal-scorer

Singapore players tossing coach Raddy Avramovic into the air after the drawn match, which sent the Lions through to the third round 6-4 on aggregate. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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Malaysia 1
Singapore 1
(Singapore win 6-4 on aggregate)

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysian defenders, 85,000 fans at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, and millions more watching on television, had their eyes glued on Singapore midfielder Shi Jiayi.

The 27-year-old glided past his markers and, with the weight of a country on him, slotted the ball past goalkeeper Khairul Fahmie, ending any hopes Malaysia had of qualifying for the next stage of the World Cup.

As the sell-out crowd fell into stunned silence, the tense Singapore bench erupted.

'That,' an exuberant Shi said, 'was the most important goal of my career. We were all really nervous because we had a lot of chances to score but their goalkeeper was amazing until then.

'It was so sweet to score in front of the Malaysian fans.'

Shi's 73th-minute strike made sure that Singapore went through to the third round 6-4 on aggregate, and that any complaints about Malaysia's controversial opening goal yesterday were moot.

After a scuffle outside the penalty box in the 58th minute, Japanese referee Takayama Hiroyoshi raised his hands as if to signal for a free kick to the Lions.

The Singapore players halted.

But Malaysia winger S. Kunanlan did not stop playing, threading a pass through to striker Safee Sali.

The Tigers captain made no mistake as he put the ball past Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud to spark wild celebrations in the stands.

Another goal without reply for Malaysia in the remaining 32 minutes would have knocked Singapore out.

Lions coach Raddy Avramovic was so livid, he had to be restrained by his staff from going onto the field.

'It was really poor refereeing because he put the whistle to his mouth. I don't know if he blew or not but all our players stopped,' the Serb later said, his composure restored but the anger still simmering.

Another sore point for Singapore was the way Izwan was seemingly targeted by the Malaysians for some rough treatment.

'They whacked my head, ribcage and even my back whenever I jumped for a cross,' said the 20-year-old. 'But I kept my cool and took it as motivation to fight harder each time to stop them.'

In only his third international game, he pulled off some crucial saves, including a point-blank block to deny Malaysia's tricky winger Kunanlan in the opening minutes.

As Izwan walked gingerly to the dressing room after the final whistle, he was mobbed by his teammates, reward after a performance that Avramovic described as 'simply oustanding'.

Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal had a different view.

He felt that the Lions goalkeeper, along with several of his teammates, went down too easily to waste time.

Singapore captain Shahril Ishak was even steadily pushed off the pitch by Malaysia's Ahmad Fakri when he was substituted in the 78th minute.

'They disrupted our tempo and rhythm because of the injury stoppages every few minutes in the second half,' Rajagobal complained.

'To me, it wasn't a fair result; we deserved to win this game.'

Try telling that to the Singapore players, who came back out onto the field after the home fans had cleared out to applaud the 300-strong Lions supporters left in the stands.

Or to Avramovic, who was thrown into the air three times by his charges to kick off what was likely to be a long night of celebration.

'I've never been more proud of my players,' said the 61-year-old, as a rare smile made its way onto his face.

'They were real fighters for 180 minutes and did their country proud.

'Now, we all need a break.'


IMO, plenty of work to be done though. Yes they have redeemed themselves, they have got much of Singapore excited again. But can this last the course? Will Singaporeans desert the team again when they struggle against Asia's best?
Why Raddy not utilise his subs more? Is he lacking confidence in them? Are they not ready yet?
I thought we do have decent players on the bench as well.

But bottomline is, We need every Singaporeans' effort in moving Singapore football forward thats for sure.

Majulah Singapura!

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