Malaysia’s Izyan Syazana (centre) vies for the ball in the match against Thailand at the OCBC Sports Arena in Singapore.
SINGAPORE: The Malaysian netball team have earned themselves early bragging rights in the Singapore SEA Games after winning the group stage in superb fashion.
A 71-32 demolition of Thailand on Thursday – the fourth victory of their campaign – allowed them to top the six-team round-robin contest ahead of arch-rivals Singapore.
Although both teams finished level on nine points, Malaysia pipped the reigning Asian champions on better goal difference.
Malaysia scored a whopping 384 goals and conceded 124, and their +260-goal difference was enough to edge Singapore by 31 goals.
Singapore, who took to the court later in the evening, had the chance to overtake Malaysia at the top but could only beat Myanmar 85-20 to remain second.
“We’re delighted to win the group stage. It’s given us a massive psychological advantage,” said coach Aminah Ashaari.
“Singapore must have thought they could win the group easily and get an easier semi-final fixture. Thankfully, we didn't allow that to happen.
“Thailand are a more formidable opponent and we’re happy to avoid playing them again. We need to keep the entire squad fit, healthy and most importantly, injury-free ... especially our key players ahead of our anticipated final against the hosts.”
Malaysia should have no problem defeating Brunei, the same opponents they thrashed 82-24 on Wednesday, in Saturday's last-four fixture and set up a mouth-watering gold medal clash against Singapore on Sunday.
In the group match on Tuesday, Malaysia and Singapore drew 35-35.
Malaysia defeated Myanmar 84-22 and the Philippines 112-11 in their opening two fixtures.
IZZRAFIQ ALIAS / The Star