The AFF BIDC Under-16 Championship got off to a roaring start as Malaysia and Laos recorded wins while Brunei held the more fancied Timor Leste to a pulsating 2-2 draw.
Playing in Group A, Malaysia edged Vietnam 1-0 at the Army Stadium while Laos beat Thailand by the same score line across town at the National Olympic Stadium.
The Malaysians were not overly impressive as they played a more patient game to deter the speedy Vietnamese lads.
It was Vietnam who created a handful of chances as the Malaysian defence stood tall and oft-times rode their luck to prevent their opponents from getting the lead.
Strikers Bui Anh Duc and Nguyen Khac Khiem seemed to inch closer but that was as far as they got while Nguyen Trong Long 24th minute miss with Malaysian keeper Muhammad Faiq Saiful Bahari well out of position underlined their desperation.
And in the end with Malaysia creating less and less chances, it took an own goal from defender Nguyen Xuan Kien in the 32nd minute to give them their only goal of the game and their first three points of the competition.
While Malaysia could boast the effort of the hardworking captain Zainul Arifin Zaimi, Vietnam should really have deserved at least a draw in the game which they gave more attacking options.
However, on hindsight with Group A having six teams, the Malaysians were more calculated in their endeavour on the day to do just enough and not too much to sap the eagerness of the players for the remaining matches.
“We were lucky today,” quipped Malaysian coach P. Somasundram afterwards.
Over at the artificial turf of the National Olympic Stadium, Laos delivered a heart-warming performance to notch their first three points in the group with a close 1-0 win over Thailand.
The Thais, who had always gone into the regional competition propelled by their reputation alone, seemed to be a little out of sort on the day – brought on perhaps by the hot and humid conditions.
Tried as hard as they could to break down the resilient Laos defence, they just can’t seem to find a way through.
And by the time Laos scored their first and what was the only goal of the game in the 36th minute through Bounphachan Bounkong in the 36th minute, the desperation begun to seep into the Thai game.
Into the second half, and Laos just held out Thailand for long periods as they then went on to pick up their first three points in the group.
In the final game of the evening at the National Olympic Stadium, Brunei brought the game to Timor Leste for both teams to share the spoils.
It was Timor Leste who were the early aggressors as strikers Roger Lopes and also Danilson Araujo rained down on the Brunei defence with several chances on a trot.
Lopes rocked the Brunei crossbar while some time later, his dribbling run did not find the perfect finish as Armindo Gusmao totally muffed his attempt to beat Brunei keeper Muhd Amirul Hakim Zukarnain.
But it was to be nippy striker Mohammad Hanif Aiman Adanan who would turn the game on its head as his clever turn and placing shot with just two minutes remaining of the first half allowed Brunei to steal the lead.
Three minutes into the second half and the game was 1-1.
An error in the defensive line, allowed Filomeno Da Costa to cooly side step his marker before scoring past an outstretched Muhd Amirul.
On level terms, Timor were once again pushing forward and again in the 62nd minute, they found themselves falling behind when Mohammad Hanif dribbled past two defenders before beating keeper Frangenio Martins Tou for the second time on the night.
But yet again, the lead was not to last too long as Timor bounced back with the equalizer just two minutes later when off a cross from Joao Frtas, the unmarked Dom Lucas Braz had all the time in the world to head the ball in.
AFF BIDC U16 CHAMPIONSHIP
Malaysia 1 Vietnam 0
Laos 1 Thailand 0
Timor Leste 2 Brunei DS 2
28 July 2015 – Both matches at the National Olympic Stadium
1530 – Singapore vs Myanmar
1830 – Philippines vs Cambodia