THERE is no question where the blame lies for Malaysia's exit from the World Cup Asian zone qualifiers as far as Safee Sali is concerned.Another defensive blunder in the second leg yesterday allowed Singapore to claim a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil and reach the third round on a 6-4 aggregate success.
The third round draw will be held in Brazil tomorrow.
Malaysia paid dearly for a catastrophic display in the first leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium where they lost 5-3. And even Safee's three goals over the two matches could not prevent the national team's premature exit in the qualifiers. "This is a very disappointing result," said Safee after the game.
"I want to apologise to the Malaysian public and the fans here for our failure. We tried as hard as we could but after we led 1-0, we lost concentration in defence.
"It was yet another mistake by the defence which led to their goal," added Safee, who gave Malaysia hope when he drilled home a shot from the edge of the box in the 58th minute.
Questions will be raised over whether centre-back Aidil Zafuan Radzak was fit to start after having to be substituted with just 22 minutes, limiting coach K. Rajagobal's tactical options.
Muslim Ahmad came on to resume his partnership with Fadhli Shas but poor marking allowed Aleksandar Duric, so lethal in the first leg, to head backwards unchallenged to Shi Jiayi who had the easiest task of slotting to the right of goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat in the 72nd minute.
Had it not been for Fahmi, Malaysia could have been severely embarrassed with the goalkeeper pulling off two fine saves in the first half from Qiu Li and Duric, who were both aided by poor offside decisions of the assistant referee.
Fahmi produced a finger-tip save from a Shaiful Esah free-kick and then denied Qiu Li in a one-on-one situation to keep Malaysia in the game.
But even as Malaysia tried to push for the two goals they needed, substitute Ahmad Fakri Saarani's double booking ended the match as a contest.
"It's not the result I wanted, we should have won the match," said Rajagobal.
"At certain times we did well, I was happy with the second-half performance. When we got the first goal it was game on. We should have got the second but injuries (to Singapore players) delayed our momentum.
"With the (Singapore) players lying on the ground, it disrupted our tempo and flow. There is a lot of room for improvement, we had another lapse of concentration.
"Having to change Aidil probably didn't help the defence to settle down but we tried hard to attack."
The absence of captain Safiq Rahim through suspension and striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha through injury hit Malaysia hard.
"We did not have Safiq and Norshahrul. Going into the game in this situation was not easy.
"Credit should be give to the players for trying, they will learn from this. Also I want to thank the fans for having the belief in us and turning out in such big numbers."