Key Battles: Malaysia U-23 vs Singapore U-23

Find out who will most probably decide the match between Group A leaders Young Tigers and Young Lions this Sunday, in the 2013 SEA Games football tournament
The young goalkeeper will again be trusted to guard his goalmouth, after earning the trust of head coach Ong Kim Swee for the two previous matches. In the tournament, he has only let in one goal so far; against Laos, and even then it was through an own goal by K. Reuben. After the criticism levelled at the Young Tigers' defence for their Brunei match, they improved against Laos, although they did seem shaky now and then. The keeper, who had recently signed with JDT, needs to work well with his defence, as their Causeway rivals on Sunday are a step up from the level of Brunei and Laos.

Eager to test him will be the Lions' on-fire striker, Sahil Suhaimi. The 22-year old may not be as famous to their opponents as his LionsXII teammates, but his three goals in the tournament so far (one in each match) suggest that he is about to blossom on his own. He will likely be depended upon again by head coach Aide Iskandar against Malaysia, and he will do well to watch for and take advantage of their opponents' occasional lapse in defence.

This highly-anticipated match will most probably decided in the middle of the park, considering the quality of players that are available in that part of the park for both teams. The Malaysian midfield have performed brilliantly, especially the central duo of Nazmi Faiz and Irfan Fazail. But it was Irfan's lethality that he showed against Laos that is going to present more threat to the Singaporeans.

What the Singapore midfield need to do is to step their foot down and avoid losing possession to. Ultimately, it is Irfan's teammate at JDT I, Harris Harun's job to lead his midfielders to do so, as although he is only 23 years old, he has competed against more senior Malaysian players in the Malaysian Super League with LionsXII, and won it too. On top of that, he also needs to provide himself as an extra attacking opstion to his team from time to time, as he does have that knack for scoring.
The injuries to several key players meant that Rozaimi found himself starting matches more often in the tournament. It is unknown whether his jittery performance against Brunei was caused by his unfamiliarity with playing from the start, but Kim Swee nonetheless decided to rest him against Laos. Hazwan Bakri came in his place and ended up scoring a hat-trick, which means that Hazwan is likely to start on Sunday. This is not necessarily a bad thing for Rozaimi, as he had expressed his preference for coming on as a substitute previously. This means that Malaysia have two strikers who can be deployed throughout the whole match. Sunday's Causeway derby is going to be a hotly-contested match that will be played until the final whistle, so the on-fire Hazwan should start the match, whereas Rozaimi should be brought on in the later stages of the match to wreak havoc on the fatigued defenders.

Against Vietnam, the Lions' defence performed admirably to shut up shop and keep their slim lead. But they are not prone to gaffes, as shown during the final minutes of their shocking draw against Laos in their opening match, and there were moments that looked like Brunei could have come back in the match. But ultimately, they have only conceded one goal from the three matches that they played, one of the best defensive records of the tournament. And that is partly thanks to Safuwan Baharudin's efforts in leading the defence, and he will most probably depended on again against Malaysia by Aide this Sunday. With Malaysia having a superior goal count from one fewer game than they, Safuwan needs to plug all holes a little tighter against the same opponents that defeated them 1-0 the last time the two met, in the Merdeka Tournament last September.
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