It will be down to the wire in Group B of the AFF Under-18 Next Media Cup 2019 when Malaysia, Australia and Vietnam all within a fighting chance of making the semifinals of the championship this year.
Following the round of penultimate matches in the group today, Malaysia led the group after beating Australia 3-0 at the Thong Nhat Stadium while Vietnam were held scoreless by Thailand later in the night at the Thanh Long Stadium.
The other match saw Singapore beating Cambodia in a tie which does not have an effect on the overall standings.
“The result was what I had expected. Both teams missed a lot of chances. But we still have another match to play,” said Vietnam head coach Hoang Anh Tuan afterward.
Added Thailand’s assistant coach Boumprom: “it was a highly competitive game. And it was a keen fight between the two teams. Naturally we are disappointed with the way we have performed this week. The boys seem exhausted but we will improve for the AFC qualifiers.”
Thailand, who have been struggling in their first three matches in the group, took the match against the hosts with a lot of gusto as Vietnam were determined not to disappoint their more than 10,000 screaming fans.
But after the first few early misses from Vo Nguyen Hoang and then Nguyen Kim Nhat, the indications were that it was going to be a long, long night.
Thailand fared no better inside the Vietnam box as either it was too wide or goalkeeper Y. E. Li Ni was doing a superb job in denying Achitpol Keereerom.
The battle was keen all the way into the second half with captain Huynh Cong Den firing in a superb freekick that almost found its intended target while sometime later, Thailand’s strikeforce could have done better with a mad scramble in front of the Vietnam goal that was cleared on the line.
With Vietnam continuously coming close but just not close enough, Thailand perhaps got the best chance of the evening with a point-blank shot from Chatmongkol Rueangthanarot that was blocked by Li Ni.
In the meantime, Malaysia made sure they are still within a fighting chance of making the next round of the meet when they beat high-riding Australia 3-0 at the Thanh Long Stadium.
With the three points, the Malaysians have picked up nine points from four matches played – the same with Australia although the former lead the standings due to better goal difference.
“The credit should go to the players as they managed to put into practice what we have done in training. We know how Australia will play, so we were prepared,” said Malaysian head coach Brad Maloney.
With the weather once again playing havoc between the beating of the sweltering afternoon sun and then the sudden beating of a heavy downpour, the Malaysians were disciplined in their defending and that made the difference.
And after testing Australian keeper Jackson Henry Lee with a crisp shot after ten minutes, Luqman Hakim Shamsudin made up for his miss to give Malaysia the lead in the 17th minute when he picked up the through ball in between two defenders to slot the ball home.
Australia’s almost came back with a quick reply just three minutes later but Gianluca Iannucci’s effort was blocked by a recovering defender.
That miss prompted Malaysia to pour forward and a 27th-minute corner saw a one-timer from Muhammad Azam Murad to give them their second goal.
And six minutes before the breather, the Malaysians went further ahead with another finish from Luqman as Australia found themselves under pressure to salvage this one.
Two substitutions into the second half gave Australia more options but as the Malaysian defence stood firm, they continued to be frustrated as Jarod Carluccio came close as did Alec Mills.
In the end, the score stood all the way to the end as both teams will now wait for the Vietnam-Thailand match later this evening across town at the Thong Nhat Stadium.
On the other hand, Singapore improved to fourth at the table with a slim 1-0 win over Cambodia in the first game of the afternoon at the Thong Nhat Stadium.
The only goal of the game came in the 67th minute through Muhammad Azri Suhaili Muhammad Azar.
RESULTS –13 August 2019
Australia 0 Malaysia 3
Cambodia 0 Singapore 1
Thailand 0 Vietnam 0
FIXTURES – 14 August 2019
1530: Myanmar vs Indonesia – Thong Nhat
1600: Laos vs Timor Leste – Binh Duong
1900: Philippines vs Brunei DS – Binh Duong