International Watch : No Room For Zhafri As Malaysia Fall To Singapore

Posted at 06:08h in THE VOICE OF CITY BOYS 


Malaysia fell to their first defeat in the Kim Pang Gon era, losing 2-1 to 161st ranked Singapore on Sunday, in the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) Tri-Nations Series at the city state’s National Stadium.


The South Korean, made only two changes to his starting line-up, and six substitutions throughout the match, as he did in the opener against the Philippines last Wednesday. Despite indicating that he would be experimenting and providing opportunities to all the members of his 25 man squad, there was no room for Zhafri to land his first cap.


However, there was another City Boys connection that made the difference on the night; Singapore’s Ikhsan Fandi, the son of legendary Kuala Lumpur striker Fandi Ahmad, opened the scoring after half an hour off a blistering counter attack, easily tucking home an inviting cross from the left despite being outnumbered by 5 to 1 in the box. Malaysia had the chance to level immediately following the break through a penalty by Safawi Rashid, after he was felled in the box, but the latter crashed his spotkick against the crossbar. It was not too long for Malaysia to restore parity, though. Liridon Krasniqi finding the bottom right corner in the 57th minute from Akhyar Rashid’s threaded pass down the middle. With almost quarter of an hour to go, Ikhsan produced some breathtaking skill to power past three Malaysian defenders on the left and fire an unstoppable shot from the top of the box that simply gave no chance to Farizal Marlias in goal, sending their 15,000 fans into jubilation, amongst them a proud Fandi. It was a special moment indeed for him, to see three of his sons, Ikhsan, Ifran and Ilhan, together on the pitch in their national colours.


The 74th Causeway derby was 154th ranked Malaysia’s first meeting against the Lions since the Air Marine Cup tournament in March 2019, where the Harimau Malaya lost 1-0 at home in Bukit Jalil. Malaysia still holds the edge with 30 wins against Singapore’s 23, but they have not beaten their neighbours following a 3-1 victory in Kallang during the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.


The Tri-Nations Series has been organised as part of preparations for the third round of the 2023 Asia Cup qualifying games coming up in June 2022. Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines are out of the race for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but they are still competing for a place in next year’s continental showpiece in China. The tourney ends on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 with Nazri Nasir’s side taking on the Philippines. Malaysia meanwhile finish their tour of Singapore, a day earlier, with a friendly match against Japanese side Albirex Niigata who compete in the Singapore Premier League. In the two matches played, Kim Pang Gon has given chances to 20 of the 25 men he brought with him. Hopefully, Zhafri may be extended an opportunity to register some minutes in this final match.