Football: Lionesses open AFF Women's C'ship campaign with 0-0 draw against Malaysia

Singapore's Nur Putri Syaliza (right) attempting to get past Malaysia's defenders during the AFF Women's Championship on July 4, 2022. PHOTO: FAS

SINGAPORE - It was not the result that Singapore were aiming for, but the Lionesses were content to pick up a point against a higher-ranked opponent in the AFF Women's Championship opener on Monday (July 4).

The stalemate against the 85th-ranked Malaysians, who are 47 rungs above Singapore, was the first time in six matches that the Lionesses had won a point in an international "A" fixture against their neighbours. They had lost five encounters since a 1-0 victory in 2017.

Monday's Causeway Derby at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila was a hard-fought affair with both teams having their fair share of chances as they battled it out in a heavy downpour.

Singapore had several opportunities to win the game, with five shots on target, but were unable to finish off their chances.

Nur Farhanah Ruhaizat also appeared to be fouled by Malaysian defender Jessica Susanne Mailu in the box in the 67th minute, but no penalty was awarded.

Singapore coach Stephen Ng said: "We have to give credit to Malaysia, they gave us a good game. It was a game that we knew we could get a result in and we worked very hard.

"If you can see from the game, we created chances but we couldn't get the goal that would've given us a result today."

But he also praised his charges, saying: "Nevertheless, I'm very proud of how the team went out there to compete and I hope we can get the momentum going for the rest of this tournament."

Malaysia coach Jacob Joseph acknowledged that the lack of opportunities to play internationally over the past year may have resulted in his team taking a while to settle into the game.

Their last competition was the AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers last September.

They did not take part in May's SEA Games in Vietnam, where Singapore enjoyed a creditable outing as they held their own against higher-ranked teams like Laos, Myanmar and five-time SEA Games champions Thailand to finish third in the four-team Group B.

To prepare for the AFF Women's Championship, Malaysia played two friendlies against Bangladesh last month, losing the first game 6-0, with the second game finishing 0-0.

Joseph is hoping that his side can bounce back to win their next encounter against world No. 95 Indonesia on Wednesday (July 6).

He said: "It was a very tough match. Singapore were well-prepared - they played at the SEA Games and some friendly matches.

"But we will use this game to prepare for the second game to get any points. I hope my players are more focused and if they play confidently, they can win it."

Singapore's Nur Farhanah Ruhaizat (left) in action against Malaysia during the AFF Women's Championship on July 4, 2022. PHOTO: FAS

The Lionesses' next game on Wednesday will be against world No. 53 Philippines, who have qualified for next year's World Cup and were bronze medallists at the recent SEA Games.

The fixtures that follow are no easier as they face four-time AFF Women's Championship winners Thailand on Friday before taking on Australia's Under-23 side on Sunday and Indonesia next Tuesday.

Singapore's Putri Nur Syaliza, who was the Player of the Match, is determined to build on the match against Malaysia ahead of the tough run of games in the coming days.

The 19-year-old said: "A game against Malaysia is always hard but I believe that each one of us gave our best and our maximum.

"We had our chances but we couldn't finish them, but there's nothing we can do right now so we have to move on and prepare for the next four games."

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