MYANMAR - Lack of concentration at the back caused Malaysia the men's football bronze medal following a 2-1 defeat by Singapore at the Zeyar Thiri Stadium yesterday.
Singapore's Hariss Harun capitalised to score twice in the first 15 minutes and even a second half reply from A. Thamil Arasu could not prevent Malaysia's first finish without a medal since 2007.
National youth coach Ong Kim Swee said his team failed to recover from the early setback as Singapore registered their first win over Malaysia in the Sea Games since 1999 before football became an Under-23 affair.
"Two minutes of carelessness killed us. We tried to come back in the second half but it was not enough to get the goals and we paid the price," said Kim Swee, who masterminded Malaysia's triumph in 2011.
"Before that we controlled the game very well but we were too eager to get goals and it was from there that we lost concentration."
Singapore's opening goal in the 13th minute came as a result of left-back Zubir Azmi conceding a corner after failing to clear the ball.
Goalkeeper Izham Tarmizi Roslan then flapped at the ball which allowed Hariss to boot it high into the net.
Less than two minutes later, Sahil Suhaimi dribbled past two Malaysians from the left into the box and crossed for Hariss, who will play for Darul Takzim next year, to turn the ball in for a 2-0 lead.
"The players really wanted to win this game and they pushed forward. We were caught on the counter," said Kim Swee.
"The first goal was from a corner which Izham missed and the second goal came from a defensive mistake."
Malaysia responded through D. Saarvindran's curled effort which was turned around the post by Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who then saved from the same player's free-kick.
In the second half, Izham prevented Malaysia from going three down when he stopped a low close-range drive by Gabriel Quak in the 52nd minute.
Hafis Abu Sujad rocked the Malaysian cross bar 10 minutes later with a shot from distance before a poor headed clearance by the Singapore defence allowed Thamil to pull one back for Malaysia in the 68th minute with a half-volley.
Malaysia pressed for the equaliser in the closing stages, leaving gaps at the back which Singapore failed to profit from before holding off the deposed champions for their first win against their Causeway rivals in five meetings at the Sea Games.