A strong contingent of 25,619 football fans at the National Stadium was treated to some thrilling Causeway rivalry action as Singapore hosted the Sultan of Selangor Cup festivities yesterday.
The S-League Selection team, managed by Singapore football great Fandi Ahmad, turned on the style to beat their Selangor counterparts 3-2 to lift the Cup for the seventh time since the annual exhibition match began in 2001.
It was also the first time the event was held at the new National Stadium, as Singapore had not hosted it since 2009.
Fans filled both the lower and upper stands at the 55,000-seat venue, and were treated to three Singapore v Selangor matches - the main match, the veterans' match and the schools match which kicked off the event in the afternoon.
Fandi savoured the sweetness of beating the Selangor state team, which comprised players from Malaysia Super League ninth-placed team PKNS.
He said: "Every victory against any Malaysian state or team is sweet. The Kallang roar wasn't that bad, we heard it. But we need it to be louder the next time and we hope to be able to hear more of it."
The crowd, most of whom were dressed in various shades of red, were kept entertained by Fandi's attacking style of football.
They gave roars of approval as Singapore surged to a 3-0 lead thanks to Khairul Nizam (11th minute), Shakir Hamzah (44th) and Faris Ramli (60).
However, just as the hosts were easing towards the final whistle, the visitors stunned their opponents with goals from captain Safee Sali (63rd minute) and Gonzalo Soto (77th) to reduce the deficit to 2-3.
In the tense closing stages of the clash, the atmosphere picked up a notch, with the crowd belting out the victorious strains of "Ole, ole, ole, ole".
Said Fandi: "We played attacking football and created many chances, right up to the last minute. We wanted to play entertaining football for everyone to enjoy.
"But we were too comfortable after being up 3-0. So we were shocked when they scored twice. I was worried about Safee Sali, because he was always dangerous, running into gaps and spaces.
"I'm happy for Singapore and even the veterans whom I spoke to were impressed by our players."
Fandi's counterpart E. Elavarasan said: "They (Singapore) were one or two seconds quicker than us and they kept pressuring us in the first half. We could not do much.
"When we came here, everyone was expecting Singapore to have the upper hand. At least we got together and put up a strong fight."
The Sultan of Selangor's Cup also showcased Singapore's football stars of yesteryear and the future in the veterans' match.
Household names from the Lions' Malaysia Cup heyday more than 20 years ago, such as Fandi, Malek Awab and Yahya Madon, brought a touch of nostalgia to the evening.
Both the Singapore and Selangor veterans laced up their boots and showed glimpses of their former brilliance, with bicycle kicks, curling free kicks and nifty footwork on display.
The 80-minute match ended in a stalemate and the two sides were declared joint winners.
The Singapore Sports School team, who had just won the Schools National B division boys' title two weeks ago, were also given a run-out on the Kallang field. They beat their Selangor counterparts 3-2 on penalties after the 50-minute game ended 1-1.
Secondary Four student Ashley Yong, 16, said it was an unforgettable experience. The right-winger said: "Before the match, we knew that there was a strong rivalry between the two countries.
"It's exciting to play in front of such a big crowd and have so many people cheering for us."