General’s Derby closes in a draw
THE first leg of the General Aung San Shield semifinal’s marquee match-up resulted in a draw at Thuwana Stadium on July 30. Yangon United dropped an opportunity for revenge against the league title-holders Yadanarbon, who won their previous two meetings this season, managing only a 1-1 draw. The prospect of a victory would have been all the more tantalising, as a draw puts Yangon behind going into Yadanarbon’s home semifinal next week.
The Lions mustered a fullstrength squad to meet the league champions, fielding a team that included Japanese defender Kunihiro Yamashita, star strikers Kyaw Ko Ko and Marcelo Fernandes, and midfielders Kyi Lin and Yan Aung Kyaw. But they were met by a Yadanarbon team that was also at full health, with Liberian forward Keith Martu Nah and midfielders Aung Thu and Ye Ko Oo returning from injuries in time for the highly anticipated match.
Yangon took the lead in the 43rd minute, when Brazilian forward Marcelo corralled a long ball from Zarni Htet and found the back of the net. But Yadanarbon put up an equaliser not long after on a 48th minute strike from Keith Martu Nah.
Tied at 1, both teams made significant position changes, Yadanarbon reverting to a defensive containing strategy while Yangon deployed center back Thiha Htet Aung as the striker in an attempt to load the attacking zone in the second half. Yadanarbon also played veteran striker Yan Paing as a right-defender for the whole match.
“In the first half, I think our players were scared of Yadanarbon because we lost two matches to them this year in the [Myanmar National League]. But the situation flipped: Our players were motivated to hustle, and we were able to get the the leading goal,” Yangon coach Myo Min Tun said after the game.
“We had lots of chances. It was devastating to share the point in our home semifinal match – we really hoped to come away with a victory. But I’m really appreciative of what the fans did here today. We’ll face a difficult second leg ahead due to the home-away goal rules,” he added, as Yangon will have to score at least one goal more than their MNL rivals next week in order to advance to the final.
“Three of our players returned from injury for this match, which was crucial. I’m satisfied with the result of one away goal”, Yadanarbon assistant coach Zaw Lay Aung said after the game.
“After we clinched the MNL season championship [on July 17], we were able to turn our full attention to the General Aung San Shield. Our team wants to be champions in this knockout as well – Yadanarbon has never won the Shield – so we’re absolutely planning on showing our best,” he added.
In the weekend’s other semifinal, Magwe beat Zwekapin United 2-0 at Thuwana Stadium, giving the MNL second-place-holders a strong position ahead of next month’s match for the final.
While both sides showed early promise, Zwekapin was unable to find the back of the net, and were left scoreless as Sett Phyo Wai and Sylle Sekou scored for Magwe in the 15th and 88th minutes, respectively.
The second leg of the General Aung San Shield semifinals will be held on August 10 and 11 at Aung San Stadium in Yangon, where Zwekapin will represent the home side, and at Mandalay’s Mandalar Thiri Stadium. The knockout tournament winners will receive a berth in the regional AFC Cup next year; Yadanarbon, as the MNL league champions, will be entered into the Asian Champions League.
Yangon United defender Thiha Htet Aung (centre, #27), playing as a striker, attempts a shot on goal in the General Aung San Shield semifinal match against Yadanarbon on July 30.
Magwe United, currently in second in the MNL-1 table, defeated Zwekapin United, 2-0, in the knockout cup’s other semifinal on July 31.