Kuantan (8 September, 2013): Myanmar and Thailand shared the spoils in the 41st Merdeka Tournament at the Darul Makmur Stadium tonight.
Playing on a wet pitch caused by a heavy downpour two hours earlier which had adversely affected the Malaysia-Singapore match that ended with the hosts winning 1-0; it was a different scenario altogether with regards to the Myanmar and Thailand tie.
There was much at stake tonight for both sides, cheered on by their motley fans. The wet ground conditions which had improved to a certain extent were hardly a bother.
Myanmar, the 2006 Merdeka Tournament champions, were on a roll to prove they are still a force to be reckon with while Thailand were out to impress and convince their fans at the Darul Makmur Stadium that they were ready for the tough battle ahead.
However, it was Thailand, who never won the Merdeka Tournament in the last 40 editions that went on an early assault and were duly rewarded in the sixth minute through striker Chayawat Srinawong who deftly placed the ball past an outstretched goalkeeper Pyaye Phyo Aung.
The early setback did not dampen Myanmar’s spirit as they clawed back with great aggression moments later with a superb understanding between skipper Khaw Zayar Win and David Htan near the top of the box. Htan’s powerful shot, however, rocked the bar and sailed over.
But there was no stopping the marauding Myanmar strikers who went in search for the equaliser and it paid dividends in the 11th minute from a beautiful set piece between midfielder Kyi Lin and his skipper this time.
Drawing the ball along the left flank, Kyi Lin manoeuvred his way near the goalpost and chipped the ball past goalkeeper Arikan Same who failed to latched on it but the cross was good enough for a lurking Khaw Zayar to head home for the equaliser.
The second half turned into another explosive affair but one which culminated with many near-misses. Myanmar made four changes to their line-up and Thailand two but it was an exercise deemed futile.
“I am happy with the overall performance of my players and perhaps we could have done better if the ground was not wet,” said Thailand head coach Kairung Threejasang.
Myanmar team manager Tin Myint Aung was equally happy with the outcome of the match but promised a better showing in the next.
“The players did their very best tonight and there is nothing more we could have asked from them. Both teams played good football and this is good match,” said Myint Aung.
Sept 9 (Monday): Thailand v Singapore (5.30pm); Malaysia v Myanmar (8.45pm)
Sept 11 (Wednesday): Malaysia v Thailand (Stadium Darul Makmur, 8.45pm); Singapore v Myanmar (Stadium Temerloh, 8.45pm)
Sept 14 (Saturday): Third-fourth placing playoff (5.30pm); Final (8.45pm). Both matches will be played at Stadium Darul Makmur.
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