Malaysia sign off from Southeast Asian Games on a high as four-goal Saravanan condemns Singapore to last spot

Malaysia ended their men's football campaign at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games on a high on Thursday as they thrashed fierce rivals Singapore 7-0, with Saravanan Thirumurugan starring with a four-goal display. Football Association of Malaysia

Regardless of the occasion, there is always the added prize of bragging rights on offer when neighbours Malaysia and Singapore meet in a Causeway derby.

Unfortunately, it was exactly just pride -- and little else -- to play for on Thursday when they met in their final Group B outing in the men's football tournament at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games with both already eliminated.

Although the two proud ASEAN footballing nations will both be heading home early ahead of Saturday's semifinals, it will be Malaysia who will be doing so at least with smiles on their faces as they signed off with an emphatic 7-0 rout of their fierce rivals.

For Singapore, the humiliating defeat condemned them to a humbling bottom-placed finish in Group B, even below minnows Laos with on goal difference just a solitary point to their names -- their worst display at the SEA Games since it became an age-group tournament in 2001.

In truth, it could have been far worse for the Singaporeans with Malaysia having had a goal disallowed, along with being denied by the woodwork on several occasions.

And while Singapore will depart from the Games with mostly tarnished reputations, one man that will return to Malaysia likely to a hero's welcome is Saravanan Thirumurugan, who was unstoppable on Thursday.

The Kuala Lumpur City man was the one who got the ball rolling when he opened the scoring after 15 minutes with an exquisite curling effort that crept just inside the far post, before Haqimi Azim Rosli doubled Malaysia's advantage right on the stroke of halftime.

The Saravanan show truly kicked off after the break when he added another three goals within 18 minutes of the restart as he completely tore apart the Singaporean defence, and he really should have had a fifth to his name when he missed his easiest chance of the lot by scuffing a shot onto the bar from a yard out with the goal gaping.

Although their second win of the tournament was already secured, the Malaysian refused to take their foot of the pedal and would go on to further embarrass the opposition with late efforts by Mukhairi Ajmal and Aiman Afif to make it a magnificent seven.

So despite the obvious disappointment of missing out on the semifinals, Malaysia will at least be able to find some positives from their campaign -- aware that they had the misfortune of being drawn in the Group of Death alongside defending champions Vietnam and record 16-time gold medallists Thailand, who are the two advancing on.

Had they found themselves in Group A, the ability they displayed might easily have been enough for a last-four berth.

But for Singapore, there is little salvation.

Perhaps only goalkeeper Aizil Yazid can hold his head high following a series of fine displays despite conceding 13 goals across four games.

The fact that their custodian was their best performer and yet Singapore had the worst-defensive record across the competition is just one illustration of how woeful their displays were.

It was not too long ago that the Singaporeans were bronze medallists in 2013. It led to subsequent optimism that they could eventually challenge for top honours.

Yet, they have gone in the opposite direction and are now as far away from being one of the region's top sides than they have been in a long time.

Their results and performances over the past 12 days -- culminating with Thursday's chastening defeat at the hands of their fiercest rivals -- was the surest sign of that.