Singapore maintained their excellent form which had previously seen them defeat Zimbabwe 3-1 in their opening match, by overcoming Montenegro 3-2 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday to finish top of Group D. The reward for their hard-fought victory was a semi-final encounter with Haiti, who advanced to the last four following a sensational 2-1 victory over Vanuatu in the day’s earlier match. Meanwhile Montenegro have to face up a phenomenal Bolivian outfit who have fired 11 goals in their two games so far.
In a jam-packed Jalan Besar Stadium, the highly-anticipated game got off to an explosive start which saw the sides level at 1-1 with just nine minutes on the clock. Once again in this tournament, the hosts who took an early lead when Hanafi Mohd’s low pass sent Muhaimin Suhaimi clear and he kept his cool to fire a low shot past Marko Kordic. Almost immediately afterwards Montenegro responded when skipper Nebojsa Kosovic silenced the home crowd with a sublimely-taken free-kick.
The battle intensified thereafter with the game flowing from end to end. Both sides produced half-chances but Montenegro won a penalty midway through the first half. From the resulting spot-kick, the in-form Kosovic stepped up to give his side a 2-1 lead. Cheered on by the home supporters, the Young Lions hit back and drew level five minutes before the break. Capitalising on an defensive error, Dhukhilan Jeevamani got in front of Kordic to cross for Jeffrey Lightfoot, who headed the ball into an unguarded net. With just five minutes remaining, Brandon Koh sealed the victory for the hosts.
The other match
Haiti 2-1 Vanuatu
Goals: Daniel Gedeon 67’, Jean Bonhomme 70’; Petch Ham 48
Brave Haiti put the opening 9-0 loss to Bolivia behind them and came from a goal behind to defeat Vanuatu to seal their place in the semis. The Central Americans entered this match needing three points to go through but Vanuatu were the first to state their intent to win when Steve Bebe burst down the left into the box, before unleashing a shot which forced a diving save from the keeper. The Oceanians pressed forward after interval and made their dominance count eight minutes into the second half when Santino Mermer crossed for Petch Ham to head home.
Vanuatu may have claimed the lion’s share of possession, but it was the Haitians who enjoyed the majority of the support. Spurred on by the raucous crowd, they pulled themselves level with 13 minutes to go when Daniel Gedeon chested down the ball before firing past the keeper. The equaliser sparked the stadium into celebration and with the fans chanting “Haiti, Haiti”, they took the lead three minutes later. Surging clear into the box from the right wing, Jean Bonhomme picked up Bertrand Vilgrain’s pass to coolly fire home from an acute angle for the winner.
Goal of the day
With no shortage of candidates today, Nebojsa’s ninth minute free-kick just shaded it, as it was a set piece of power and precision.
“After losing 9-0 to Bolivia, we came into this match having nothing to lose. The coach kept his faith in me and I was encouraged to do my best. Everyone in the team worked hard and it was the never-say-die spirit that carried us through,” Jeff Petit Frere, Haiti goalkeeper.