Asian champions live up to favourites' tag
Malaysia comfortably beat Singapore who pay price for poor second quarter
Despite being the defending champions, Singapore had gone into yesterday's SEA Games preliminary-round netball match against Malaysia as the underdogs.
After all, the Republic's team had lost a number of senior players since they beat Malaysia 46-43 in the final on home ground in 2015.
On the other hand, the young Malaysian team had stayed mostly intact, matured as a unit and clinched the Asian Championship in Thailand last year.
Yesterday, the Malaysians lived up to their favourites' tag at the Juara Stadium in Kuala Lumpur where they comfortably beat Singapore 50-37.
Backed by a vociferous home crowd, the hosts were on top of Singapore in every quarter, pulling away in the second period when they outscored Vanessa Lee and Co 13 goals to seven.
Both Singapore's coach Yeo Mee Hong and co-vice captain Charmaine Soh felt that their side started the match well, but paid the price for a poor second quarter.
Yeo said: "We started well, but made quite a few unforced errors in the transition from defence to attack."
Soh added: "The (score in the) second quarter was down to our unforced erorrs, but credit to the Malaysians. They were very consistent throughout the match, and we could not follow through with our game plan."
Yeo started 1.96m-tall Chen Lili in the goalkeeper position to counter Malaysia's 1.78m-tall goal-shooter An Najwa Azizan, but the latter proved to be a tricky opponent in Singapore's circle with her positioning and movement.
The prolific Malaysian converted 12 of 14 attempts in the first quarter and 10 in 12 tries in the second period to end the match with a game-high of 33 goals and an 86.8 per cent shooting accuracy.
At the other end, Singapore's Soh and goal assist Zhang Ailin combined well in the first period with 11 goals.
However, the goals became more difficult to come by in the second period with the duo receiving fewer passes at the business end of the court.
Singapore coach Yeo made wholesale changes at half-time, sending Melody Teo on to partner Aqilah Andin in defence, while pushing Chen up front as goal shooter, with Soh tasked as goal assist.
Captain Lee was pushed up to Nurul Baizura's position as centre, while the latter moved further up to take on the wing attack role.
The changes stabilised Singapore in the second half, with the mobility of defensive duo Teo and Aqilah causing more problems for Malaysia's attackers.
The combination of Lee, Baizura and Soh - who often dropped deep to supply options in the centre - worked a treat at the other end.
While Chen was not particularly effective as the goal shooter, she pulled Malaysian players away from Soh, who scored six goals in the third quarter, and all nine attempts in the final period.
Soh said: "The loss is definitely tough, but I am very proud of what we pulled off, and finishing the game strongly in the fourth quarter."
Despite the loss, Singapore could still make the semi-finals on Saturday, and will face the Philippines today.
Yeo said: "It was a very tough game, but I am not too worried about the loss.
"It is a (preliminary) round game, and it was more important to try out the different combinations that we would not be able to test later on.
"We came really close in the second half with combinations we have not tried before, and I am really happy with how they worked out."