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Malaysia U23 0 Thailand U23 3: Tigers brought back down to earth by commanding Elephants

Goal.com logo Goal.com 21-07-2017

BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter

Following their 3-0 win over Indonesia U23 in the qualification stage opener of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship, Malaysia U23 were brought back down to earth by hosts Thailand U23, who defeated them 2-0 in their second group match on Friday.

Malaysia head coach Dato' Ong Kim Swee were without two Kedah players who played key roles against Indonesia. Kedah Goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal Che Kassim and forward Syafiq Ahmad were injured in their previous match.

In the match that was held at the National Stadium, Bangkok, Malaysia were pinned back in their own half from kick-off, and although they were initially able to absorb the onslaught, they conceded in the 23rd minute.

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A cross from the right was blocked on the line by Adib Zainuddin, but the rebound fell right into the path of Chenrop Samphaodi, who did not miss from five yards out.

The Young Tigers tried pushing up after conceding, but they were outclassed in every department. The forwards, missing Syafiq, could not get the ball into the Thais' final third.

Their three-man defence was also stretched thin, struggling to keep up with the Thais who utilised their wings effectively.

This was proven just before halftime, when a defensive mix-up between the defenders while trying to contain a Thailand attack allowed Samphaodi to stab home the hosts' second of the night.

The hosts relaxed their pressuring in the second half, taking off Samphaodi just before the hour mark, but Kim Swee's men were not able to capitalise on it.

Nopphon Phonkam vies for the ball with Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik. Photo by Goal Thailand

Although Srimaka Worrawoot's team did not pressure their opponents as intensely as they did in the first half, they still maintained their quick transitioning from defending to attacking, something which the Malaysians failed to do.

With five minutes remaining on the clock, Thailand compounded Malaysia's misery, scoring their third of the night. Phicha Au-Tra outsmarted Malaysia's offside trap which was set very high, close to the halfway line, when he was released by a through pass. Au-Tra then had little problem slotting the ball past goalkeeper Amierul Hakimi Awang.

However, Malaysia's qualification chances are still good. Although Indonesia U23 defeated Mongolia U23 7-0 in the other Group H match on Friday, Thailand's shock 1-1 draw against the Mongolians on Wednesday meant the hosts are only leading the group by one point. Malaysia are second and Indonesia third with three points each, while Mongolia are last with one point.

This Sunday Malaysia will play Mongolia, and if they beat Mongolia while Indonesia win or draw against Thailand they will finish top of the group, and qualify automatically for the finals next year. A second-place finish too may win them qualification, provided they finish the qualification stage as one of the five best second-place finishers in the whole of the qualification stage.

Malaysia U23: Amierul (GK), Adam, Adib (C), Irfan, Arif, Danial Amier, Amirul (Danial Ashraf 65'), Syahmi, Syazwan, Jafri (Shamie 83'), Thanabalan,

Thailand U23: Muangngam (GK), Promsupa, Leeaoh, Maikami (Channgom 57'), Singmui, Maiwong, Haiprakhon, Buran, Phonkam, Veerachat (Sookjitthammakul 84'), Samphaodi (C) (Sombatyotha 61').

More: GALLERY: Indonesia U23 v Malaysia U23

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