SINGAPORE: Lions coach Bernd Stange had called Omani referee Ahmed Abu Bakar Said Al Kaf’s decision to award Malaysia a penalty in the 90th minute a “heart-breaker”.
In the post-match conference on Saturday night (Nov 29), Stange said: “From my view, it didn’t look like a penalty. I have to see the replay. It’s not my job to judge, it’s the referee’s.” He added that the players and him were “feeling empty” after the match.
Hafiz Sujad was adjudged to have fouled a Malaysian player in the box at the stroke of full-time, and Safiq Rahman converted the resultant penalty. Striker Indra Putra put the gloss on the victory when he slid home the third goal into an empty net after Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny failed to rush back in time from a free-kick at the other end of the field.
Singapore striker Khairul Amri had earlier equalised, after Safee Sali put the Tigers ahead at the hour mark.
The coach said “injury time stopped our dreams” and “we are all disappointed”. “Tomorrow we will open the newspaper and only see 3-1,” he said.
Angry fans had thrown bottles on the pitch, in protest of the referee’s decision. The referees had to be escorted into the tunnel by riot police.
“We feel very, very sorry for our fantastic fans,” Stange said. “But it’s a young team, and we have a bright future ahead. Six to eight players can still play in next year’s SEA Games and we’re looking forward to it.”
That said, the coach admitted the team “lacked a little backbone” – something Singapore had two to three years ago, and these are areas the team have to improve on.