| BANGKOK (7 Oct 2008) – Korea Republic and Australia took a big step towards playing in the grand final of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-19 Championship this year when they both played to a scoreless draw here at the Rajamangala Stadium.
Following from their victorious outing in the first game of the tournament two days earlier – when Korea beat Thailand 1-0 and Australia thumping China 3-1 – the match today was expected to be full of excitement from the two giants of Asian football.
Both teams are now on equal four points from two matches although Australia are slightly ahead on better goal difference.
And while this evening, Korea put up a much improved performance from their first game, the Aussies were less confident and played a lot more defensive throughout the exchange.
Korea carved out their first real chance in the tenth minute but the corner from Seo Yong-duk saw no takers while three minutes later, a cross from Han Jea-man was picked up by Choi young-dong, whose shot was blocked by Australian keeper Andrew Redmayne.
The Koreans ended the half with another attempt from Jung-han but Redmayne was equal to the task for the score to remain in a deadlock at the break.
Australia started coming back in the second half but Jason Naidonski just took a tad too long with the chance presented to him in the 54th minute.
As the clock trickles down, it was obvious that there was not going to be a change to the scoresheet even though Australia did creat several chances in the closing stages.
In the meantime, hosts Thailand gave themselves a lifeline for a chance to play in the grand final of the on-going tournament when they beat China 3-0 in the second game of the evening.
China were the early aggressors when Piao Cheng tested Thai custodian Samuel Por Cunningham with a volley in the seventh minute before Zhang Jian delivered a futile header off a cross from Wang Liang five minutes later.
That failure to score saw Thailand going forward and in the 14th minute, they created their first real chance off a cross from Nirunrit Jaroensuk which went past a yawning goalmouth.
But in the 28th minute Nirunrit, who has been a thorn in the Chinese defence the whole night long with his darting runs, finally broke the deadlock when he headed in the lead for Thailand from the far post off a corner from Kroekrit Thawikan.
China attempted to get back into the match in the closing stages of the first half with a double attempt but Cunningham was there to deny the Chinese as the score remained to the advantage of the hosts at the break.
The second half saw Thailand playing a more patient game as they pushed China to take more of the early initiative but instead the visitors fell further behind in the 58th minute when Kroekrit blasted in a grounder off a rebound.
Zhang Jian created a chance for himself at the hour mark but his grounder was denied by Cunningham while ten minutes later, a stinger from Piao Cheng failed to find its intended target.
In the 74th minute, Thailand wrapped up the game in their favour when Nirunrit beat the off-side trap for his second goal of the evening.
The hosts will now need to beat Australia in their next game if they hope to play in the final game of the tournament.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULES and FIXTURES
5 OCT 2008: KOREA REPUBLIC 1 THAILAND 0; AUSTRALIA 3 CHINA 1
7 OCT 2008: KOREA REPUBLIC 0 AUSTRALIA 0; CHINA 0 THAILAND 3
9 OCT 2008: China vs Korea Republic/ Thailand vs Australia
11 OCT 2008: Third and Fourth Placing/ Grand Final