BY ERIC SAMUEL
JAKARTA: Defending SEA Games champions Malaysia and arch rivals Singapore shared the spoils, when they played to a goalless draw in a Group A tie of the men’s Under-23 football competition at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Senayan on Monday.
National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee had four players from the victorious 2009 Laos SEA Games squad in the starting line-up – midfielder Baddrol Bakhtiar, defenders Mohd Muslim Ahmad, Mohd Fadhli Shas and Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar – but his team failed to find the elusive winning goal.
Both teams dished out a lacklustre performance before some 300 fans in the stadium. There was really nothing to shout in the match except for a few goal-scoring attempts at both ends.
Singapore's Khairun Nizam (right) vies for the ball with Ahmad Muslim (left) of Malaysia during their South East Asian (SEA) Games qualification round soccer match at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 7, 2011. -EPA/ADI WEDA
Malaysian skipper Baddrol came the closest with two shots. One was saved by Singapore goalkeeper Mohd Izwan Mahbud in the 25th minute and the other – a curling shot in the 35th minute - narrowly missed the target.
Singapore forward Muhd Fazli Ayop also tested national goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat twice – with low grounders in the 12th and 40th minute. Both were easily handled by Khairul.
In the second half, Baddrol had the best chance to steal the winner, when his first-timer from a corner-kick missed the target by inches in the 83rd minute.
Malaysia will play fancied Thailand next on Wednesday.