CHONBURI (3 August 2019) – It was a day of sharing as the top three teams in Group A played out draws today but that also meant they would have to wait until their last preliminary match on Monday to decide which teams will advance to the semi-finals.
Malaysia, after their stunning 3-0 win over Australia two days ago, were expected to secure their semi-final slot today with a win over Laos. But that was not to be as Laos turned in a superb performance, in fact they almost won, if not for a somewhat unfortunate goal in the dying moments. A miskicked clearance by a defender took a wicked bounce and turned into goal.
In a later match in the evening, Thailand came from behind, thanks to a penalty, to hold Australia to a 1-1 draw. After today’s results, Malaysia, who conceded their first goal today, remain top of the standings with 10 points. Thailand also have ten points while Australia are next with seven points.
Malaysia and Thailand will face off in the last group on Monday which will decide the group champions while Australia have an easier game against Brunei. Malaysia and Thailand only need to draw to advance. However, Australia has to win, and by a massive margin, and hope for either Malaysia or Thailand to lose, to remain in Chonburi until the end.
In another game today, Cambodia and Brunei also played out a 1-1 draw to earn their first points of the competition.
Malaysia vs Laos
The Malaysians were riding high following their surprising 3-0 win over Australia two days ago. And with Laos no longer in the running for a place in the next stage, the Malaysians would have been expecting to sail through this fixture. It was not to be as Laos provided a superb performance in the first half, taking a slender 1-0 lead going into the locker room.
A defender’s failed attempt to clear a pass saw Thipphacan Khambai One intercept the loose ball and serve the Malaysians a blow seven minutes from the break. A few minuets later, Mohamad Khairil Mohd Zain’s strike from the left went wide and Malaysia missed their chance to level the score before the break.
The Malaysians tried hard but seemed a little jaded, possibly after playing in China and now here. To their credit, Laos turned in a fine performance and cut off the Malaysian attacks. In the 78th minute, Laos should have settled the game but captain Khonesavanh Keonuchanh’s shot came off the post and Malaysian keeper Ahmad Azeem Izhar quickly cnatched it up. The miss would prove costly.
In the final moments, in added time, Mohamad Khairil sent a cross from the centre of the pitch towards Zubaidi Mohd Buang but a Laos defender moved in and tried to clear the ball. He miskicked and it turned towards his own box, but while there was no danger in that, unfortunately for Laos, a seemingly safe bounce took a wicked turn into goal.
Malaysian coach P. Maniam said his boys tried hard to create chances. “In today’s game, the players worked very hard, we tried to create chances. Our opponents did well in the counter attacks and scored. In the second half, we made some changes and created some chances, but it’s not easy to play them, they played deep defending. Only in the last minute we equalised, we are very happy with the result.”
Thailand vs Australia
Australia, keen to make up for their loss to Malaysia two days ago, wasted no time in getting their campaign back on track. In the fourth minute, Clayton Taylor broke through to put his side ahead, providing them with a sensational start against the hosts.
Knowing that then group leaders Malaysia were held by Laos in an earlier match across the street, Australia and Thailand both wanted to make the best of this game to improve their semi-final chances. With two matches remaining, including the last group game on Monday, every point earned would go a long way in their quest to make the last four.
The Thais, who have won all their three earlier matches, got back into the match when they were awarded a penalty which skipper Theekawin Chansri converted at the end of the first half.
Australian coach, Trevor Morgan was pleased with the result. “We very happy with our performance, obviously a difficult and strong opponent. We feel we should win the match, it was tight but I do believe we created more opportunities and controlled more of the play. For our team who have been together for two weeks now, we feel to match a team like Thailand is a very good step for us.”
“Today, we reinforced our football, we wanted to play our football, the way we wanted to play. In the match against Malaysia, they fought with their lives and defended desperately in the box and I think it’s something we have to expect. But we just look to play our football and keep improving.”
Thai coach Salvador Valero Garcia admitted they had a tough start when Australia scored an early goal. “It was a difficult start for us, after that we came back and we could score, and actually we had more chances before the halftime to score. In the second half, we struggled, they pressed a lot and created chances … anyone could win. At the end, the draw was fair for both teams and looking forward to the next match against Malaysia.”
Cambodia vs Brunei
In a match between the fifth and sixth placed teams in Group B, Cambodia and Brunei finally earned their first points of the tournament when they played out a 1-1 draw today. Brunei notched the opener in the 31st minute through Md Syaherrul Affendy Md Syahmirul Nizal.
Cambodia refused to give up and battled hard and eventually hit the equaliser in the 69th minute through Heng Sovanpanha.
RESULTS AND FIXTURES
Venue: Institute of Physical Education (IPE)
Malaysia vs Laos 1-1
Cambodia vs Brunei 1-1
Thailand vs Australia 1-1
1500hrs: Indonesia vs Myanmar
1530hrs: Singapore vs Philippines
1800hrs: Vietnam vs Timor Leste