Singapore Under-23, after a string of three losses in the Merdeka Tournament, pulled off a 2-1 victory against the Thailand Selection to take home the bronze medal on Saturday night.
The Young Lions took the lead late in the first period through Shahfiq Ghani but it was cancelled out by an 82nd minute strike from Hasan Maeroh.
Faris Ramli netted the match-winning goal for Singapore in the final minute of stoppage time to gift his side a consolation victory.
Thailand started with the same line-up that beat Singapore in the group stage and were going for the goal from the get-go.
The Lions on the other hand, welcomed back Afiq Yunos into the set up but decided to leave Gabriel Quak on the bench. Shahfiq Ghani was given the lone-striker role.
Too often the Thais depended on Chayawat Srinawong the chase the long balls but Madhu Mohana and Afiq kept them out for good 10 minutes.
As the game eased on, both sides took their time to settle down in the game with no sense of urgency to whatsoever.
It took 22 minutes for the first piece of real action to unfold in the third/fourth-placing match. Faris Ramli broke free on the left hand side and found himself in a two-on-two situation. He slipped Shahfiq through on goal but the forward slammed his shot way over the target.
Just one minute later, Pakorn Parmpak had time and space to shoot from 35 yards out and his rocket of a shot forced a save from Syazwan Buhari.
The Young Lions then resorted to pressing high and it paid off in the 31st minute. Fazli Ayob displayed a brilliant piece of ball control to break away from his marker, Mama-Areh Dueramae. As he made his way into the box, he hit the deck with Mama-Areh breathing down his neck and made a claim for a penalty but the referee was having none of it.
More drama ensued in the 38th minute when Amree Dueramae was put through by Chayawat. The No.8 found the net but the linesman flagged him for offside.
Seconds from the half time whistle the Young Lions took the lead.
Hafiz Sujad stormed from the back to meet Shamil Sharif’s defence splitting pass. He crossed for Shahfiq to place it home but the LionsXII striker made a mess of it. Luckily he picked himself up to bundle the ball home to give Singapore the 1-0 lead at the break.
The second period saw the Thais introduce Pithak Abdulraman into the game replacing Amree and it didn’t take him very long to get involved.
At the 50-minute mark he walloped a shot from range after giving himself half a yard but he sent it into the stands.
The War Elephants then kicked it up a gear, maintaining heaps of the possession while pressuring the Singapore defence constantly.
As the rain started to pour in Kuantan, Shahfiq was in the limelight once again in the 56th minute.
He broke away from two Thai defenders to bring the ball towards the left by-line but instead of crossing for Shamil in the box, he shot straight at Abeefaesan Ya to parry to safety.
With the pitch getting wet with the rain, both keepers had nervy moments handling the ball in the box. However, nothing came of that till the 65th minute.
Pinyo Inpinit tricked a hoard of Singaporean defenders to make room for a shot but the Young Lions’ skipper, Hafiz Sujad, slid in to block the shot.
Set pieces were Thailand’s choice of attack as they launched cross after cross in to the Singaporean box hoping for the defence to slip up in the wet conditions but Hafiz and co. did well to keep the Thais out.
And finally on the counter, Thailand finally drew level in the 82nd minute after some shoddy defending by the Young Lions. They failed to clear Pinyo’s shot and Hasan Maeroh was there to follow up on the loose ball to slot home the equaliser.
Four minutes later Hasan almost dealt Singapore the killer blow after Pakorn did the hard work down the left flank and into the box before crossing. All Hasan had to do was place it into an empty net but he hit it over the bar in excitement.
At the death, it was Thailand’s turn to fumble at the back after Abeefaesan failed to grab hold of a long pass into the box.
Afiq Yunos shot at goal but it ricocheted into the path of Faris who had an empty net to aim for. His followup shot hit a Thai defender bit it still trickled in to hand Singapore the 2-1 lead and the bronze medal.