A double from Fergus Tierney gave Malaysia a valuable 2-1 win over Indonesia as they took the lead in Group B of the AFF Under-23 Championship 2023 here at the Rayong Provincial Stadium.
With three teams in the group, the full points for the Malaysians meant that the pressure will be on Indonesia as they take on Timor Leste next in two days.
“I am a bit emotional as we were playing against the team that had just won the SEA Games gold medal. And Indonesia are always tough to play against. But we were confident that we can do this,” said Tierney after the game.
In one of the more highly anticipated matches in this tournament, the competitive nature of these two teams was obvious as Indonesia brought with them six players that had played a pivotal role in that Phnom Penh victory back in May.
And buoyed by the chanting of both sets of fans seated on opposite sides of the stadium, the game was nothing short of explosive and full of drama.
With the Malaysians struggling to string two passes together, Indonesia were quick to shut down any attempts going forward.
The pacey Muhammad Najumuddin Akmal was a thorn for the Indonesian defence while the overlapping runs of Bagas Kaffa troubled the Malaysians somewhat.
And in the 29th minute, Malaysia’s failure to keep a tab on striker Muhammad Ramadhan Sanata down the left saw him breaking through to smash in the lead past keeper Muhammad Rahadiazli Rahalim.
The change for the hardworking Tierney into the second half would turn things around for the Malaysians as he provided more attacking pressure.
In the 54th minute, Indonesia conceded a penalty when Tierney was brought down inside the box which the latter duly converted to put the match back on level terms.
Indonesia seemed to be lacking in direction for much of the game afterwards as it allowed the Malaysians to slowly take up space and pushed forward.
And in the 63rd minute, some hesitant defending on the part of the Indonesian defence saw Tierney well-placed for the finish to give the Malaysians the lead for the first time in the game.
That goal pushed Indonesia back into action and even though Frengky Missa was doubling down on the crosses, it was not good enough to beat Radahziali for the second time on the night.
“It was a really tough game, we worked really hard but we conceded two goals. But that is football, we need to move forward from this,” said Indonesia captain Bagas.
In the meantime, the Philippines and Laos battled to a 2-2 draw in a Group C tie that saw a red card being flashed for the first time in the competition and both head coaches being given yellow cards.
With three teams in the group, the draw was unsettling as the Philippines and Laos will still have to contend with defending champions Vietnam in their respective matches.
It was Laos who took control of the game early with Chantavixay Khounthoumphone stringing the midfield while Thippachan Khambai On provided the crosses down the flank.
But it would be the Philippines who went ahead in the 23rd minute where off a throw-in, a poor clearance from the Laos backline allowed Selwyn Billena Mamon to head the ball into goal.
However, it would be all square at the break when in the 39th minute, Laos would draw level after Khamsa Phimmasone pounced on a loose ball after the Philippines’ backline failed to clear the freekick from Chantavixay.
The change for the pacey Kongyang Faidangyanglongtoua gave Laos more options in the attack as the Philippines tended to absorb much of the pressure.
As the game wore on, the gravity to win the full points increased and that led to some unwanted physical exchanges which in turn saw a red card being flashed on Jaime Rosquillo in the 77th minute as Laos’ Damoth Thongkamsavath was yellow carded.
But even with the one-man disadvantaged, it was the Philippines who would grab their second goal of the game in the 90th minute through Dennis Chung’s superb drive.
Just when the Philippines thought that they had the three points in the bag, a lapse in concentration allowed Souphan Khambai On to slam home the equaliser just seconds short of the final whistle.
“We went ahead twice but both times allowed Laos to come back. There are obvious areas which we need to improve on for our next game,” said Philippines captain Yrick Gallantes.
Added Laos captain Khamsa Phimmsone: “We will have to correct the mistakes that we have made in this game. There were some positives which we can bring to the next match.”
AFF UNDER-23 CHAMPIONSHIP 2023
All matches at the Rayong Provincial Stadium
GROUP B – RESULT and FIXTURE
18 August 2023
Malaysia 2-1 Indonesia
20 August 2023
2000hrs: Indonesia vs Timor Leste
GROUP C – RESULT and FIXTURE
18 August 2023
Philippines 2-2 Laos
20 August 2023
1600hrs: Laos vs Vietnam