Lions not out for blood against Tigers in Oct 7 challenge

The last time they met, a fiery football match between Singapore and Malaysia saw tensions boil over, when the Tigers beat the Lions 3-1 at the National Stadium to knock the defending champions out of the 2014 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in the group stage.

However, national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny feels he and the team have put that behind them, and will be focused on sticking to the game plan instead of holding any grudges when the two sides spar again at the National Stadium on Oct 7 in the Causeway Challenge.

The 32-year-old played a pivotal role in the match on that fateful day. Trailing 1-2 in stoppage time, the custodian went up to attack a corner but Malaysia intercepted the ball and slotted into an empty net from distance.

Laughing at the mention of that incident, he said: "That's all in the past. Oct 7 will just be another game and we'll all be excited for it.

"There won't be any such thing like taking revenge for what happened then. We'll all be heading into this game as professionals and are focused on getting a result.

"Everyone is just raring to go and play. This will be a good warm-up for Singapore in preparation for the Suzuki Cup and the main aim will be to test ourselves against a strong Malaysian team."

Singapore are drawn in Group A of the AFF Cup alongside co-hosts Philippines, defending champions Thailand and Indonesia. Malaysia are in Group B alongside co-hosts Myanmar, Vietnam and the winner of a qualifying tournament.

Set to be their 65th clash,Malaysia hold the edge with 22 wins while Singapore have 19. The pair have drawn 23 times. The Lions' Fifa ranking is 159, eight places ahead of Malaysia (167).

Lions' vice-captain Hariss Harun said: "Both countries share a unique bond and deep historical ties, and matches between Singapore and Malaysia have always attracted thousands of fans to the stadium.

"I am confident that we will put up a strong performance and we look forward to our fans turning the National Stadium into a sea of red on match day. The sight of our fans singing and cheering never fails to motivate us and we hope to see a strong turnout on Oct 7."

The Tigers, under coach Ong Kim Swee, will miss the services of 2014 AFF Cup top scorer Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, Amirulhadi Zainal and S. Kunanlan as they prepare for the biennial regional tournament. The Johor Darul Takzim quartet quit the national team in July.

However, Hassan still expects a strong resistance from the Tigers, saying: "Malaysia are always dangerous. Even though they'll have players missing, they still have a wide pool to choose from in the Malaysia Super League.

"However, I do still hope Safiq changes his mind and returns to play for his country. He still has a few more good years left in him."

  • Tickets (Cat 1: $28 and Cat 2: $18) available from from noon on Sept 1, with a 25 per cent discount for early birds (till Sept 12). Concession rates are also available.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Lions not out for blood against Tigers in Oct 7 challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe