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Maloney's boys reach AFF Under-18 semis despite two losses

New Straits Times logo New Straits Times 16/8/2019 Farah Azharie
a group of people standing around a bag of luggage: (NSTP File Pix) Group B in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-18 championship leaving for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam recently. © Provided by Media Prima (NSTP File Pix) Group B in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-18 championship leaving for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam recently.

AS the action raged till the last round of the preliminary matches, Malaysia found out that Group B did live up to its billing as the Group of Death in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-18 championship in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Defending champions Malaysia lost their opening match, 1-0 to Vietnam earlier, and yesterday, Brad Maloney’s boys ended their group fixtures with a 1-0 loss to Thailand.

Fortunately, the Malaysians scraped into the semi-finals against Group A champions Indonesia, thanks to their wins over Singapore (3-1), Cambodia (3-0) and Australia (3-0).

It was a nervous afternoon for Harimau Malaya when they trailed Thailand 1-0 but Cambodia provided relief for Malaysia with a surprise 2-1 win over Vietnam.

The Malaysian players look tired and subdued yesterday, a pale shadow of the side that put four-time champions Australia to the sword on Tuesday.

This was apparent during the first half when Maloney’s boys had only one decent goal attempt through Firdaus Kaironnisam, son of former national player, Kaironnisam Sahabudin Hussain, in the 34th minute.

It took the Thais 69 minutes to breach the Malaysian defence following goalkeeper Firdaus Irman Mohd Fadhil’s mistake.

Firdaus tried to pull a dummy in front of Sitthinan Rungrueang but it backfired when the substitute striker pounced and recorded his first goal of the competition.

Maloney said: “We had expected a tough match from Thailand. They started slowly but got better. They gave Australia a run for their money the other day.

“Despite the result not being what we wanted it to be, the players did enough to qualify for the semis.”

The Thais, before starting yesterday’s match against Malaysia, were already eliminated from the competition.

The five-time winners had suffered two earlier defeats (4-3 to Cambodia and 3-1 to Australia) and managing only two points from draws with Singapore (1-1) and Vietnam (0-0).

Australia, despite their shock loss to Malaysia earlier, topped Group B, and will take on Myanmar in the semi-finals.

Yesterday, the Socceroos thrashed Singapore 5-0 to add to their wins over Cambodia (5-1), Vietnam (4-1) and Thailand (3-1).

Unlike the topsy-turvy Group B, Group A was quite straightforward with Indonesia and Myanmar easily booking their semi-final berths ahead of Timor Leste, the Philippines, Laos and Brunei.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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