Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia have joined Thailand in the semifinals of the AFF Under-23 Championship 2023 following the completion of the group matches earlier this evening.
Malaysia emerged as Group B winners after beating Timor Leste 3-1 at the Rayong Stadium while defending champions Vietnam took Group C after edging the Philippines 1-0 at the Rayong Provincial Stadium.
Indonesia have emerged as the best runners-up team.
“Naturally I am happy to have scored two goals today. I hope that I will be able to score again in the semifinals,” said Malaysian striker Alif Ikmarizal Anuar.
Timor Leste could not have started on the worst note than when they conceded the first goal of the game just five minutes in when they gave Alif the space and time to shoot in from the edge of the box.
And just eight minutes later, they conceded the second goal of the game with Alif with the assist for Muhammad Aliff Izwan Yuslan to chest the ball down before finishing it past Timor keeper Georgino Da Silva.
But Timor Leste did not give up and they showed plenty of heart as they attempted to get back into the game through the likes of Olagar Xavier, Freteliano Dos Santos and Luis Figo Ribeiro with the attacking options.
Certainly, there were chances but Dos Santos nor Cristivao Fernandes could make it count as they had to wait until four minutes left of the first half to pull a goal back.
Dos Santos provided the lay-up as Xavier then turned the ball into the Malaysian goal to put the score at 2-1 to the Malaysians.
Timor Leste started the second half stronger as the Malaysians then made several substitutions to give more bite into the midfield.
But with Timor Leste unable to score when the Malaysian defence was in shambles in the 52nd minute, it gave the impetus for the latter to fight back for their third goal of the game.
In the 64th minute, a try from Muhammad Aliff was blocked by keeper Da Silva but Alif was already waiting at the far post for the finish.
Timor Leste threw everything they had to narrow the gap but was let down by several poor finishings.
“We tried to win the game but we were unable to make good on the chances. We have to try to do better in the future,” said Timor Leste head coach Park Soon-tae.
In the meantime, Vietnam edged the Philippines 1-0 to win Group C and booked their place in the next round.
The only goal of the game came in the 18th minute when Nguyen Huu Tuan picked up the short cross from Nguyen Dang Doang for the finish from inside the Philippines box.
AFF UNDER-23 CHAMPIONSHIP 2023
Timor Leste 1-3 Malaysia
Vietnam 1-0 Philippines
24 August 2023
SEMIFINALS – All matches at the Rayong Provincial Stadium
1600hrs: Malaysia vs Vietnam
2000hrs: Thailand vs Indonesia