Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Singapore snatch draw against Laos after dramatic late equaliser

HANOI (CNA) – Just as the afternoon sunshine melted into angry storm clouds, Singapore’s hopes of a victory against Laos in their Southease Asian (SEA) Games opener looked to be rapidly dissipating yesterday.

In front of a partisan crowd at Vietnam’s Thien Truong Stadium, the Young Lions looked out of it – until they weren’t.

As Jordan Emaviwe’s stoppage-time flick hit the back of the net and the team wheeled off in celebration, head coach Nazri Nasir leapt for joy on the touchline.

Laos had been ahead – with goals from Ekkamai Ratxachak and Chony Wenpaserth – before strikes from Singapore substitutes Glenn Kweh in the 89th minute and Emaviwe put the Young Lions level.

Speaking to the media after the game, Nazri hailed his team’s fighting spirit.

Singapore head coach Nazri Nasir celebrates the Young Lions’ equaliser against Laos. PHOTO: CNA

“I was so hysterical and couldn’t control my feelings. I wanted to celebrate, I wanted to be there, and that’s why I went onto the field… I am very proud of the boys,” he said.

“I told the players (to) play until the final whistle. If there was no final whistle, don’t stop… They fought and they never gave up.”

In the last edition of the Games, Singapore had faced Laos in their opening group match and were held to a goalless draw despite taking the game to their opponents.

But three years on, it was Laos with the stranglehold on the game.

They looked the sharper of the two sides and Singapore skipper Zaiful Nizam had to be quick off his line to cut off an onrushing attacker early on.

Minutes later, Zaiful was called into action once again as Chony played in Phoutthavong Sangvilay, only for the Singapore goalkeeper to save well with his feet.

The Laotians would not be denied and they took the lead in the 14th minute as Ekkamai sprinted through and hammered a shot past Zaiful.

It took over 10 minutes for Singapore to fashion a chance of their own as an in-swinging freekick by Zulfahmi Arifin was met by Ryaan Sanizal but his header went wide. Largely starved of service in the first half, striker Zikos Chua’s pass was collected smartly by Ryhan Stewart, but the resultant shot was blocked.

The Young Lions’ best chance in the first 45 fell to Shah Shahiran, but his curling effort rebounded off the crossbar with the Laos goalkeeper beaten.

The Laotians continued to control the game in the second half as Ekkamai found himself with time and space but Zaiful tipped over.

And Chony got his goal in the 49th minute as his finish sent the crowd of about 20,000 into raptures.

Singapore came close to grabbing a consolation late on, but Khairin Nadim’s shot was pushed away after good work from Kweh.

Kweh looked to be Singapore’s best attacking outlet and he grabbed a goal under the floodlights in the 89th minute to reduce arrears.

Then in dramatic fashion, Emaviwe flicked home, sending the Laotians collapsing to the ground in disbelief.

Nazri acknowledged that his side had been slow to settle down early on, as Laos took the game to them. But he noted that the team recovered from that and played the way he wanted them to.

Singapore will next face Thailand today.