Timor Leste keep focus on football pitch

Team brush off match-fixing scandal and restrict Malaysia to single-goal victory

ST 20150531 SPT5A 1363908m

It was business as usual for Timor Leste's SEA Games football team, who are embroiled in a match-fixing controversy, as they went about their Group B match against Malaysia calmly at Bishan Stadium last night and even restricted their opponents to a 1-0 win.

Yesterday morning, the Timor Leste side were rocked as their team manager Orlando Marques Henriques Mendes, 49, was charged in court with corruption after allegedly agreeing to be paid $15,000 if he ensured that his team lost. A number of team members also assisted the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in its investigation.

Three others - former Timor Leste footballer Moises Natalino de Jesus, 32, Singaporean Rajendran Kurusamy, 55, and his associate, Indonesian national Nasiruddin, 52, were also charged with corruption yesterday.

Rajendran is a former associate of notorious Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.

Despite the pall of match-fixing hanging over this game, the Timor Leste players showed no signs of distress during the warm-up.

And when the match started, they played as a disciplined unit, defending cohesively and briefly threatened on the counter.

Timor Leste's defence was breached in the 12th minute, when midfielder D. Saarvindran slotted home after a neat attacking move down Malaysia's left flank.

That turned out to be the only goal, giving Ong Kim Swee's side the three points to start their SEA Games campaign.

But the low-scoring win could return to haunt Malaysia if the group is decided on goal difference.

Said Timor Leste's head coach Fabio da Silva: "I believe in my players because they sacrificed all they had and played hard.

"It doesn't matter what happened, we concentrate on our job. For sure, I trust my players."

Despite enjoying the majority of the possession, Malaysia found little space and created few clear-cut chances. They also finished with 10 men after a red card was shown to midfielder Nazmi Faiz Mansor in the 32nd minute for allegedly spitting at an opponent.   

"I don't know (if he spat) because I've not seen the video. But if that was what he did… I cannot condone it," said Ong.

"It's unacceptable and made it very difficult for us. We were doing well with 11 players but when you have only 10, they have to work even harder."

ocharles@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Lim Yi Han