SEA Games 2017, Aug 19-30

SEA Games: Ang saves Singapore's blushes

Singapore's Chiam Kun Yang shooting past Indonesia's Benny Respati in their SEA Games men's water polo round-robin match. Chiam scored two goals while Benny netted once in the 4-4 draw.
Singapore's Chiam Kun Yang shooting past Indonesia's Benny Respati in their SEA Games men's water polo round-robin match. Chiam scored two goals while Benny netted once in the 4-4 draw.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Water polo team have title destiny in their hands after late equaliser against Indonesia

Since water polo's introduction at the 1965 South-east Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games, the Singapore men's team's dominance over their rivals has never been questioned.

Before these Kuala Lumpur Games, the last time they failed to win against regional opposition was a 5-5 draw with Malaysia 52 years ago. Since then, they have won every gold medal on offer at the Seap Games and SEA Games.

But one proud winning streak ended yesterday when the Republic needed a goal from Ang An Jun two minutes from time to rescue a 4-4 draw against an improving Indonesia side at Kuala Lumpur's National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil.

Leading 3-1 at the end of the first half of their round-robin match, Singapore appeared to be on course to notch their third straight win of the tournament. But, with eight minutes left, Indonesia held a 4-3 lead over the defending champions. Only Ang's late equaliser prevented a huge upset.

"I was just frustrated that things weren't going our way and it was a relief that we equalised," said the 23-year-old Ang. "We were more fired up to go for the next goal and were trying to go for the win, but it didn't go our way."

The result means Singapore have to beat Malaysia by two goals in their final round-robin match tomorrow to clinch their 27th straight title at the biennial event.

Both Singapore and Indonesia each have two wins and a draw. Their results against the third-placed team - Malaysia - will determine who are champions.

Indonesia beat Malaysia 4-3 on Tuesday.

Asked if his players feared losing against Indonesia, Singapore captain Loh Zhi Zhi said: "Eight minutes is still a lot (of time) to be played, so we were conscious of (the deficit) but we were just taking it one play at a time.

"We locked down on our defence in the last quarter. We have some things to work on in attack - we had the opportunities, we just need to improve our efficiency in attack."

The high-intensity match even led to a brawl in the fourth quarter, which resulted in Singapore's Samuel Yu and Indonesian Beby Willy Eka Paksi being sent off.

"In close games like that emotions tend to boil over," said left-driver Koh Jian Ying. "It's never a good thing to have fights. It was okay after that, (the scuffle) was just in the (heat of) the moment."


Indonesia's Silvester Goldberg Manik (left) brawls with Singapore's Sean Ang (cap 10, clutching his head) during the SEA Games men's water polo match between both countries on Aug 18, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

 

Singapore coach Dejan Milakovic attributed his charges' third-quarter slump to a loss in concentration.

"It was a physically tough game because both teams based their play on good defence," said the Serb. "We were making some beginners' mistakes (in the third quarter) but towards the end we showed character… We have one more step and it's to beat Malaysia to finish where we should."

Confidence is still high in the Singapore camp despite the scare.

Said Ang: "We are still confident of being the best team and we'll definitely try to beat Malaysia."

Loh added: "It's in our hands now… we have two days before (the Malaysia game) to recover, so we're going through the steps to make sure we make good preparations for the final game."

Nicole Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Ang saves Singapore's blushes'. Print Edition | Subscribe