SINGAPORE - Singapore's women lived up to their billing as favourites with a penalty shootout victory over Thailand in the Southeast Asian Games floorball final after the teams played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in front of an ecstatic home crowd on Sunday.
The hosts have invested heavily in the sport that plays like ice hockey on a wooden floor and their women were taken the distance by a determined Thai outfit before goalkeeper Fariza Mohamed Zabir proved the difference between the teams.
"This win will help floorball grow as a sport in Singapore," forward Laura Tan told reporters after her side won the inaugural floorball final in the 28th running of the regional multi-sports event. "It has been growing well for the last two years but the SEA Games will give us a platform to build further, to showcase what we have and what the sport brings."
Floorball had a troubled build-up with organisers changing the venue a week ago due to technical issues but an unexpected huge turnout of home fans, many of whom had queued for hours, ensured the final was played out in an incredible atmosphere.
Singapore started slowly but had forged a 3-2 advantage going into the third and final period through goals from Xuan Yeo, Hui Hui Ong and Debbie Poh before Thararat Duangporn struck back for the visitors to send the game into extra time.
Neither side was able to break the deadlock in the 10-minute sudden death period, the hosts wasting a five-on-three advantage for the final minute when the Thais had two players sitting in the penalty box.
Jill Quek and Natalia Wee gave Singapore a 2-1 lead in the shootout after four attempts, with Sunaree Thoenkhunthod responding for Thailand, before Zabir dived low to her left to deny Thararat and was mobbed by her team mates as a standing-room only crowd roared their approval. "I just wanted to do my best in front of the home crowd and for my family. Not forgetting my team mates, who had played a very hard game. I guess we really deserved that win," Zabir said.
Home captain Wynne Tang praised her opponents but felt Singapore had done enough to deserve the victory. "The Thais were very aggressive and they were constantly looking to score. Our experience helped us have a slight edge over them and we were able to keep cool and play our game," she said.
The same two countries will line up in the men's final being played later on Sunday.