CHONBURI (4 August 2019) – Malaysia and host Thailand completed the cast for the AFF Under-15 Championship semi-finals when they finished top two in Group B which concluded their fixtures today. Malaysia however claimed the leading spot in the standings thanks to an equaliser in the dying moments at the Institute Physical Education Stadium here tonight.
Thailand had a smashing start when they fired ahead 18 minutes into the last group match through Pornsawan Sankla. But Malaysia pressured their opponents all the way, particularly in the last 10 minutes, and their persistence paid off when they notched the equaliser in the dying moments. To Thailand’s dismay, Sittha Boontha, turned the ball into his own net as he tried to clear the danger.
Even before the kick-off today, both Malaysia and Thailand had virtually sealed their places in the last four after Australia defeated Brunei 4-0 in another group tie. Australia required a big margin of victory to have any hopes of advancing and four goals was just too far off to catch up with the leaders.
With the win, Malaysia, as the Group B winners, will face Vietnam while Thailand will battle Indonesia, the Group A winners, in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
Soon after the kick-off, Malaysia charged into the box but Wan Muhammad Hakim’s shot was blocked. Two minutes later, it was Thailand’s turn to give their opponents a scare but Kasidit Kalasin’s cracker, off a corner, was well caught by Malaysian keeper Zulhilmi Sharani. The pace picked up with both sides pressuring their rivals.
The Malaysians were the first to concede in the 18th minute after failing to put the brakes of the speeding Pornsawan Sankla on the right. The lanky striker unleashed a stinging low shot which Zulhilmi reached out but was unable to stop. Wongwat Jaroentaveesuk, in the 21st minute, set up Kakana Khamyok but he blasted the ball over.
The action was fast and furious as both sides tried to increase the score. As the game progressed, the Malaysians began to pile on more pressure. Three simultaneous substitutions added more bite to Malaysia’s attack. The had several close calls but could not convert them. With the game all but over, a shot into the box came off Sittha and dropped into the goal.
Over at the other pitch, the Australians needed a massive win to make up the huge goal difference and have any chance of moving on. On paper, they needed at least nine goals, however, Brunei refused to give in, defending well and putting out the many attacks from their rivals. With the lack of goals, Australia could only hope for either Thailand or Malaysia to outplay each other, by a large enough margin to let the sneak through. But that would not happen as the game ended in a draw.
The Aussies must be praised for their determination and spirit, which was evident soon after the game started. Despite this, the opening goal did not come as quickly as they had hoped for, Finally, they opened accounts in the 19th minute when Kane Gibbs pulled in a short cross just before the touch line for Aiden Mostofi to score. Then, Sebastian Gomez volleyed his side further ahead from a Mostofi cross in the 33rd minute.
They gave it their all to increase the tally but Brunei also fought hard. It was only in the 53rd minute when they netted a third through Bernardo Olivera and another from Mostofi four minutes past the hour. Brunei had the occasional attack, including in the 50th minute but Muhammad Azirul Aiman’s attempt was saved.
In the first match of the day, Laos bagged their second win in five games when they defeated Cambodia 3-0 to complete their fixtures with seven points and a fourth placing. Cambodia and Brunei were fifth and sixth respectively.
RESULTS AND FIXTURES
Venue: Institute of Physical Education (IPE)
1500hrs: Laos bt Cambodia 3-0
1530hrs: Australia bt Brunei 4-0
1800hrs: Thailand and Malaysia draw 1-1
INDONESIA vs THAILAND
MALAYSIA vs VIETNAM
1500hrs: 3rd-4th Placing
NOTE: Teams in CAPS bold qualify for the semi-finals