|The Cubs who went in as the favourites,|
fell to a shock 0-2 loss to Haiti in the semi-finals
on Sunday night. --
PHOTO: YOGOC/SEYU TZYY WEI
SINGAPORE'S dreams of reaching the Youth Olympic Games football final crumbled to dust in front of a packed Jalan Besar Stadium as the Cubs fell to a shock 0-2 loss to Haiti in the semi-finals on Sunday night.
The Cubs went in as the favourites after beating Zimbabwe 3-1 and Montenegro 3-2 in their group matches. Haiti, on the other hand, had squeaked into the semis after coming from behind to beat Vanuatu 2-1. They had been thrashed 0-9 by Bolivia in their first group match.
But it was Haiti who triumphed in the end, thanks to their guile, poor finishing by the Singapore attack and two mistakes by the Cubs' defence. Singapore gradually dominated the match after a cagey opening 10 minutes but missed two wonderful opportunities to score.
Midfielder Ammirul Mazlan dived to connect with Jonathan Tan's inswinging freekick in the 19th minute but headed just wide. Two minutes later, Hanafi Mohd Akbar brilliantly dribbled past two Haiti defenders before whipping a cross to the unmarked Brandon Koh at the far post but the midfielder headed upwards in front of an open goal.
Hanafi Mohd Akbar also missed a chance to score in the 30th minute when his low shot was palmed away by Haiiti goalkeeper Jeff Petit Frere. A lapse by Singapore goalkeeper Fashah Rosedin three minutes before the break then gave Haiti a shock lead and dealt a psychological blow to the Cubs.
The 15-year-old - who was also at fault when Montenegro scored their first goal on Thursday - looked like he had Bertrand Vilgrain's 37th-minute shot safely gathered. But he inexplicably let the ball slip out of his hands and an unmarked Jean Bonhomme pounced to head the ball into the net to silence the 6,000-strong crowd.
Singapore went all out in the second half in search of the equaliser but were frustrated by Haiti's decision to pack their defence and their time-wasting tactics. Although the Haitians did succeed in unsettling and frustrating the Cubs by easily falling to the ground upon contact, to their credit, they also looked dangerous on the counter-attack and threatened to score on a number of occasions through Bonhomme.
The Haiti striker would eventually create the 78th-minute goal that sealed the win for his country. He had beaten one Singapore defender and was shaping to shoot in the box when Singapore defender Illyas Lee barged into him from behind. Bonhomme went to ground and Hungarian referee Istvan Vad did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. He also showed Illyas the red card.
Haiti skipper Daniel Gideon then slotted the ball past Fashah to make it a magical night for his team. Haiti will now face Bolivia in the final on Wednesday. The South Americans had earlier defeated Montenegro 3-1 in the other sem-final. The result means that Singapore and Montenegro will meet again on the same day for the bronze medal.