SINGAPORE - The national Under-21 football team were denied third spot at the Nations Cup in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday (June 5), when they let slip a two-goal lead and were beaten by Vietnam 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw at the end of regulation time.
Even though they put in a much improved performance following a 3-0 defeat at the hands of hosts Malaysia on Friday, Richard Tardy's team collapsed dramatically against the Vietnamese towards the end at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca.
The momentum was in Singapore's favour after going 2-0 up through goals by talented attacking midfielder Adam Swandi (42nd minute) and Hazim Hassan's 51st minute penalty.
But just four minutes after Hazim's spot-kick, Swandi conceded a penalty which was converted by Huynh Tan Sinh.
And Vietnam's comeback was complete when substitute Nguyen Quang Hai's searching cross was picked up by an on-rushing Ha Duc Chinh who fired the ball past goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan Mardan to stun Singapore in stoppage time.
As no extra-time was played, the match went straight to a penalty shoot-out.
Following Friday's loss, Richard Tardy made a notable change to the Singapore line-up, axing goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad, whose errors were responsible for all three goals the team conceded in that match, replacing him with Geylang International's Hairul.
Hairul had enjoyed a good night as he palmed away several dangerous forays into the box and pulling off crucial saves throughout the game.
But Singapore were undone when defender Shahrin Saberin's sixth penalty kick was saved by Vietnamese goalkeeper Do Sy Huy.
Coincidentally, the last time the two sides met were also decided in the same way, when Singapore beat Vietnam 6-5 on penalties at the Newspaper Cup in Vietnam last November, after Joshua Pereira scored a last-gasp equaliser for Singapore.