It was an inspired move by Datuk Ong Kim Swee at half time that swung the match in favour of Malaysia as the Young Tigers came from behind to beat Singapore in the second match of Group B in the 2017 KL SEA Games.
A sub-standard Amirul Hisyam and Syahmi Safari were both taken off at half time after failing to impress in the first half. In their stead, Nor Azam Azih and N. Thanablan were introduced - and it turned out to be the game-changer.
Azam was the first to score as he thumped the equaliser in, after receiving a pass from Safawi Rasid. Then Thanabalan became the hero when he reacted the quickest to pounce on a loose ball inside Singapore's penalty box to score the winner.
Ong was pleased that the move paid off as he looked to change the game following some insipid performance in the first half, which Singapore managed to come away with the opening goal of the match through Amiruldin Nodin.
"The two subs made a lot of changes. Both scored. Unfortunately we couldn't find our rhythm in the first half. But in the second half, we changed totally our movement and we played much better. And I think that is the real strength of our team. I believe we'll play better after this," said Ong in the post-match press conference.
However, Ong was less than happy with the manner in which the team conceded the opening goal. From the careless mistakes in possession to the failure to close down Amiruldin, it was very much reminiscent of the defence slacking off against Brunei - a cause for concern for Ong moving forward.
"It's good to happen now [the defensive mistakes] where we have time to recover. Especially the two goals we concede against Brunei and Singapore were down to our mistake. We lose concentration and today we make one mistake in passing. And that shouldn't happen. If we want to go further and we qualify for next stage, we have to stop doing all these kind of mistakes," added Ong.
After two matches, Malaysia have maximum points but are still behind Myanmar by virtue of an inferior goal difference. Myanmar had beaten Lao 3-1 in the other group fixture played at the same time. The two teams will meet on Monday, by which Myanmar are expected to be ahead on points as they are scheduled to take on Brunei before then.
Ong remained cautious although it would now take a combination of miraculous result for Malaysia not to qualify for the semi-final. Although the Monday encounter could very well decide on the group winners, which could potentially be an easier route in the final.
"We are not there yet. Almost but not there yet. We need to beat Myanmar to confirm to qualify. We still have two more games. We'll focus on Myanmar then we'll think about Laos," said Ong.