Lions fire blanks but Sundram's satisfied
Despite Lions failing to find the net, national coach says it's the best game under his charge
Decked in a maroon T-shirt, he jumped across the barrier, jogged - unmolested - across half the pitch and whipped out his phone.
The boy who could not be much older than 15, went straight up to Singapore captain Hariss Harun, and managed to drag Daniel Bennett and Faritz Hameed to pose for a selfie before calmly surrendering himself to security personnel.
Even from way up in the stands, his broad smile was all too clear.
V Sundramoorthy's Singapore drew 0-0 with Malaysia in last night's Causeway Challenge but, like that boy, the 24,928 who thronged the National Stadium would have left the stadium impressed with the Lions' showing.
Sundram asserted that this is the best performance that he has overseen in the four months that he has been in charge of the team, and he has every reason to be pleased.
With Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Izzdin Shafiq bossing the midfield, and Faris Ramli, Khairul Amri and even defender Faritz providing several options in the attacking third, the home side had the lion's share of possession, and fashioned one chance after another.
There was desire, defensive discipline, movement in attack, and a heady mix of short and long passes.
They failed to manage only one thing - to find the back of the net.
"This was probably the best game that the boys have played in my time in charge," said Sundram, who turned 51 on Thursday.
"We kept the ball well, and circulated it well, only sometimes we lost it easily while trying to make the forward pass.
"This was a very positive performance, and I believe we were unlucky. We should've won by two or three goals, and were denied a penalty too.
"It was more difficult to hit the post than to put the ball in and, on any other day, they'd have all gone in."
In the 42nd minute, Amri's left-footed curler pinged off the crossbar and, with Malaysia failing to clear their lines, the woodwork came to the visitors' rescue again, standing in the way Hariss' follow-up header.
Faris was denied a penalty after being fouled in the 69th minute, with Singapore again hitting the crossbar a minute later, through a Bennett header.
But this was a Malaysian side in serious disarray, and one that did not turn up to challenge the Lions.
And Singapore should have done better.
Bereft of four first-team players - who retired - and a Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) side evidently hell-bent on going against the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and anything that represents it, Ong Kim Swee's side were at best a patchwork of the best among the rest who are available.
"This is a brand-new team, the back four is totally brand new - this is their first game together - and for them not to concede a goal, it is very good," said Ong.
"If I had the team (that played against) Timor Leste, we would do much better than we did (last night)."
Malaysia played Timor Leste in an Asian Cup qualifying play-off in June and won 3-0 in both legs of the encounter. Only three in last night's Malaysian first 11 played then.
Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim was introduced to both sets of players before kick-off last night at the National Stadium and, while he shook the hand of Singapore coach Sundram, he did not make any attempt to approach his countryman, Ong.
Ong does not even know if these players will remain with him till the AFF Suzuki Cup comes around next month.
"There are so many things going on in Malaysian football now, I don't know. I hope I will actually have these players till then," he said.
"(Tonight) was not a question of whether I'm happy or not, what's most important is that we get a result. I would love to play a beautiful game, but if we don't get a result, it would be a disaster."
It may have been against that backdrop that Singapore managed to dish out some tasty football, but Sundram - like that boy in maroon - and the rest of the 24,927 fans at the National Stadium, it did not matter.
It was a great tune-up for the Suzuki Cup, and Sundram left the stadium with a birthday gift he was well pleased with.
"Malaysia has 12 teams in the Malaysian Super League and 12 teams in the (second-tier) Premier League," said Sundram.
"We only have six S.League teams (from which) to choose players, and I think we did well."
"It was quite easy to motivate the players whenplaying against Malaysia... we always want toget one over them. We had the upper handand should’ve won this game."
- National coach V Sundramoorthy.