SINGAPORE - Singapore were eliminated from the AFF Suzuki Cup in dramatic fashion when they fell 3-1 to arch-rivals Malaysia on Saturday night.
Needing only a point to progress from the group, defending champions Singapore conceded a last-minute penalty which Tigers midfielder Safiq Rahim converted in extra time to take a 2-1 lead.
Oman referee Al Kaf Ahmed pointed to the spot when Shakir Hamzah and Hafiz Sujad were adjudged to have fouled Malaysia forward Amri Yahyah in mid-air. But replays showed it was a harsh decision as Amri was already falling as the ball sailed over his head.
According to a Singapore team official who declined to be named, referee Ahmed said he awarded the penalty based on his assistant's advice, but refused to pinpoint the culprit.
"From my view, it didn't look like a penalty," said downcast Lions coach Bernd Stange.
"It's a heartbreaker, what a shame for a match to be decided like that."
"Even the Malaysian players thought it was a goal-kick because not one of them appealed," said Hafiz, his eyes red from tears.
Captain Shahril Ishak added: "Everyone can see that's not a penalty. Malaysia played well but when we equalised (through Khairul Amri), we thought we had the game in the bag."
It would only get worse for the Lions as Malaysia substitute Indra Putra scored in stoppage time into an unguarded net following a breakaway as Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny had come up for a corner.
The visitors had taken the lead in the 61st minute through striker Safee Sali which silenced the near-capacity National Stadium. However, the Lions equalised through striker Khairul Amri's neat finish in the 83rd minute.
It was all in vain though for the hosts and national coach Stange.
With the win, Malaysia, who were third in Group B, leapfrogged Singapore into second spot with four points. More significantly, it meant the Tigers qualified for the semi-finals with a meeting against Group A winners Vietnam.
Thailand, who beat Myanmar 2-0 to top Group A with nine points, will face the Philippines in the other semi-finals.