Azwan's hat-trick steers Malaysia past Singapore

Mohd Azwan (No.9) dazzled in the game between Singapore and Malaysia, which drew a 900-strong crowd, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
Mohd Azwan (No.9) dazzled in the game between Singapore and Malaysia, which drew a 900-strong crowd, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

He drew a blank on his Asean Para Games debut last year.

But Malaysia forward Mohd Azwan Azhar more than made up for that miserable outing yesterday, scoring a hat-trick as the visitors humbled hosts Singapore 3-0 on the first day of the APG football five-a-side tournament.

The 21-year-old's three goals meant that he ended the day as the competition's top scorer.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said: "I was very excited and happy to score for my country."

Azwan, who works as a reflexologist, added that he was delighted with how his team showed "great team spirit", and that they are gunning for the gold medal after finishing runners-up to Thailand in the previous edition.

Singapore coach Richard Tan put the loss down to jitters, saying: "We are fantastic in practice, but when the whistle blew, all the routines and drills were gone. I'm not sure if this is a mental barrier."

Despite the defeat, he and his players were encouraged by the support shown inside Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre Hall B, which was packed. Among the 900-strong crowd were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, with the former addressing the team after cheering them on during the game.

Announcements had to be made constantly to remind the excited crowd to remain silent during play.

Singapore's Mohamad Fahim Yusoff, 53, said: "The attendance of the crowd was very good. As the pioneer team, we felt encouraged."

Tan added: "The PM came to watch the team in training and now he came to watch our opening match too.

"What more can you ask for?"

Singapore play defending champions Thailand tomorrow, while Malaysia face Vietnam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2015, with the headline 'Azwan's hat-trick steers Malaysia past Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe