Singapore, Malaysia ready to resume football rivalry

The Lions are hoping to maintain their eight-year unbeaten run against Malaysia (photo courtesy of FAS)The Lions are hoping to maintain their eight-year unbeaten run against Malaysia (photo courtesy of FAS)

Singapore is ready to defend its proud eight-year unbeaten streak against arch rivals Malaysia when the neighbours clash in Friday's Causeway Challenge at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

When the two teams last played at the same venue last July, Singapore came away with a heart-stopping 5-3 win in the second-round World Cup qualifier.

But this time around, the Lions will have to try to keep the run going with just two fit and recognised strikers - LionsXII duo Agu Casmir and Khairul Nizam.

This, after coach Raddy Avramovic decided not to call up the experienced pair of Aleksandar Duric and Fazrul Nawaz to replace the injured Sufian Anuar, Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri.

With an eye on November's AFF Suzuki Cup in Malaysia and Thailand, the 62-year-old Serb said the international 'A' friendly is a platform to give the younger squad members the chance to cement their places in the team.

There are several single-capped players in the Singapore team, including full-backs Poh Yi Feng and Irwan Shah, midfielders Firdaus Kasman and Safirul Sulaiman and striker Ahmed Fahmie.

Another player, right-back Delwinder Singh made his first start for the Lions only last Friday, in the 0-1 friendly loss against Hong Kong.

And Avramovic is confident the new faces will do the country proud against its fierce rivals. "They have all shown potential. These games will help them to develop," he said.

But it will not be an fully experimental team that will take to the pitch on Friday. Avramovic confirmed Lions stalwarts like Casmir, Daniel Bennett, Hariss Harun and Baihakki Khaizan will all play some part in the game.

Both coach Raddy and captain Baihakki are looking to win on Friday (Yahoo! Photo/Lin Wenjian)Both coach Raddy and captain Baihakki are looking to win on Friday (Yahoo! Photo/Lin Wenjian)

"Our main target is to try to win the game, so we will try to keep possession, create chances and score goals," the coach added.

With the LionsXII supplying 19 out of the 28 players called up for the match, stand-in skipper Baihakki is confident their inside knowledge of Malaysian football will make a difference.

"We have the familiarity, so I hope we will have the extra boost," the central defender said.

Avramovic, though, cautioned this is the first time the LionsXII players are getting together for the national team since they started playing in the Malaysian Super League and said more time is needed to gel with their teammates from other clubs.

He pointed out that defending Suzuki Cup champions Malaysia, on the other hand, has played together as a team for a few years and therefore holds the advantage going into Friday's clash.

But his counterpart K. Rajagobal countered that Singapore has benefited from playing against top-level opponents in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers last year and is also more familiar with playing at Jalan Besar.

"I need to focus on my team. This is a local derby and my players will be motivated," he added.

His star striker Safee Sali is also relishing the chance to finally put one over the Lions. "This is the time for us to get a god result. I am confident that if I have the chance to score, I will put the ball into the net."

The return leg will be in Selangor next Tuesday.

Causeway Challenge

Singapore vs. Malaysia

Friday, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar Stadium.

The match will also be shown live on Starhub Channels 112/201 and on its mobile and online platforms.