Malaysia's Safee Sali (in blue) fighting for the ball against Singapore's Baihakki Khaizan (left) in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 Group B match at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on 25 November, 2012.
KUALA LUMPUR, (D5) - Malaysia were left in tatters after Singapore crushed them 3-0 to send the AFF Suzuki Cup defending champions into the bottom of Group B.
After the earlier match between Indonesia and Laos ended in a 2-2 draw, co-hosts Malaysia needed to capitalise on their home ground advantage to secure the top spot in the group.
Instead, it was the visitors who shone at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium after Shahril Ishak bagged a brace to silence the home crowd. Despite Malaysia's attempt to try and reduce the deficit, substitute Aleksandar Duric delivered the finishing blow by firing in Singapore's third goal in the 75th minute to seal Malaysia's fate.
Despite being on away ground, Singapore looked the livier side with a sense of urgency and purpose in their attacks, though Malaysia also traded a few attempts from Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.
The early exchanges transitioned into a more tactical play as neither side are keen to concede the first goal, but misfortune struck the hosts in the 32nd minute. Shahril broke through the Malaysian defence to latch onto a Shaiful Esah cross, holding off defender Azmi Muslim to guide the ball past Khairul Fahmi's gloves.
However, Malaysia's attempt to respond was dissolved after Singapore added a second goal five minutes after the opener. A Singapore free kick was redirected by Khairul into his own goal, and despite Fadhli Shas' best effort to clear the ball, Shahril was pouncing in, heading the ball back into the net.
Khairul's heroics at the closing moments of the first half to deny Khairul Amri kept Malaysia's hopes somewhat alive.
Malaysia's defence were constantly tormented after the restart, with Aidil Zafuan called into action to deny Shahril a hat trick in the 52nd minute. Substitute Wan Zack Haikal engineered a counter attack for Malaysia , but Singapore's defence, fresh and rarely called into action, was ready to snuff out the danger.
Singapore goalkeeper Izwan had to pull out a fine save to deny Safee Sali a goal from a Wan Zack cross, but as things are looking good, disaster struck again. The focus on attacking has thinned down the defences, and Aleksandar Duric - who just came in for a minute - was left unmarked to connect a cross with a fine header to put Lions 3-0.
K. Rajagobal pushed his boys to salvage at least a goal, but Singapore hunkered down and kept their three-goal lead intact until the final whistle.
The result left Malaysia at the bottom of Group B with zero points, while Singapore go top with three.