Malacca (3 June, 2016): Malaysia knocked three goals past Singapore to set-up a showdown with Thailand in Sunday’s final of the Nations Cup at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca tonight.
The match was graced by the Governor of Malacca, Tun Datuk Seri Utama Mohd Khalil Yaakob, and watched by an estimated 3,000 enthusiastic fans as National Under-21 head coach Frank Bernhardt’s boys went in search of a win over the Singaporeans.
Bernhardt kept his confidence in goalkeeper Amierul Hakimi Awang, leaving the more experienced Muhammad Haziq Nadzli and the reliable JDT II defender Dominic Tan on the bench.
The German also introduced Arif Farhan Md Isa in defence and Selangor midfielder Adam Nor Azlin – two of the survivors from the 2015 SEA Games squad.
It was a good turn of events today for the Malaysians as four minutes into the game, Muhammad Safawi Rashid gave the hosts the much needed lead with a well-timed finishing touch after Muhd Jafri Chew’s curling free-kick shot met the upright post and rolled near the goal line.
The young tigers, however, missed three clear chances after this. First it was Jaffri, who failed to latch on a simple pass from midfielder Nur Syamie Iszuan in front of the goalmouth six minutes later while Nur Syamie was equally guilty of tapping a meek shot straight into goalkeeper Muhd Zharfan on 12th minute.
The second half was clearly dominated by Malaysia who went 2-0 up in the 52nd minute from a Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad goalmouth melee goal. Singapore’s best chance of pulling a goal back was in the 65th minute but midfielder Amir Zalani failed in his attempt.
Syamie, however, redeemed his earlier letdown by sneaking the ball past Zharfan in the 83rd minute after the Singapore goalkeeper failed to stop a Farhan Roslan cross from outside the left side of the box.
While Malaysia faces Thailand in the final, Singapore entertains Vietnam in the playoff for third placing. The Thais had earlier defeated Vietnam 2-0.
Thailand dictated terms just after kick-off against a Vietnamese side that struggled to find its rhythm despite a 2-4-3-1 formation introduced by head coach Hoang Anh Tuan, leaving striker Nguyen Tien Linh as the main goal poacher against the Nations Cup favourites.
And it only took Worrawoot Srimaka’s boys six minutes to break the deadlock following a defensive error by Huynh Tan Sinh, giving Chaiyawat Buran all the time to pluck the ball away, and raced down the left flank before relaying a cross to Nattawut Sombattoytha who packed it past goalkeeper Do Sy Huy without much challenge.
On the opposite end, Vietnam had its fair share of ball possession via Phang Thanh Hau and substitute Ha Duc Chinh combination but Duc Chinh shot from 20 minutes away sailed past the post with goalkeeper Apirak Worawong out of position.
The Thais upped the ante after the breather and went 2-0 up by the 72nd minute from a free-kick orchestrated by skipper Chenrop Samphaodi and midfielder Pravee Tantataemee placed it gently into the left side of the net.
Vietnam could have reduced the deficit four minutes before the end but Thanh Hau’s goal was ruled off side by Malaysian referee Zulkifli Ahmad.
“Overall I am not too happy with the performance of my boys. We missed several chances but I can see that the players were also affected by the heat and a tough challenge from Vietnam,” said Worrawoot.