Myanmar flying high a er win over Cambodia
AFTER a heartbreaking last-minute loss in their opening AFF Suzuki Cup match against Vietnam, the White Angels bounced back last night with a dominant performance against Cambodia.
The 3-1 victory catapulted Myanmar into second place in Group B, giving the hosts a chance to advance to the semi-finals with either a draw or win on November 26 against Malaysia.
During his post-game press conference, coach Gerd Zeise said he was proud of the team’s resilience, particularly after falling behind early.
“Our finishing skills obviously improved,” he said. “We’ve been training [set pieces] repeatedly, and we got those goals in this match.”
The loss drops Cambodia out of contention, and coach Lee Tae-hoon said after the game that he was disappointed in his team’s lack of focus.
“Our team made so many mistakes, both individual and as a team,” he said. “And the Myanmar players are so fast, they capitalised. Our players couldn’t keep up.”
The match began evenly through the first 10 minutes, with neither team maintaining consistent possession. Zeise had made a few changes to the starting line-up – most notably sitting striker Win Naing Soe for Myo Ko Tun – but chemistry looked shaky early on.
Cambodia struck first at the 15 minute mark after keeper Kyaw Zin Phyo badly misplayed an attack from the near post. Drifting 5 metres off his centre line, the Myanmar goalie could only watch as Cambodia’s star striker Chan Vathanaka laid off a simple pass for the unguarded Sos Suhana – who promptly buried the opener into a gaping net.
Myanmar had a near-miss moments later, when Aung Thu broke free on a brilliant run through the centre of the pitch. Hopes of an equaliser were dashed, however, as he sent the ball skipping just wide of the post.
The White Angels kept up the pressure, dominating possession and generating several scoring opportunities. But Cambodia found a rhythm with several threatening counter attacks. Sos Suhana had a chance to add to his tally in the 33rd minute, slicing right through the Myanmar back line for a one-on-one with Kyaw Zin Phyo. But the White Angel keeper spoiled his chance with a diving save to keep Myanmar within reach.
The save energised the home team, and midfielder Nanda Kyaw made the most of his 35th minute free kick from 35 metres out. He floated one just over the heads of Cambodia’s backline, where defender Zaw Min Tun flicked it into the net to tie the game.
The goal and ensuing surge in crowd energy catalysed the Myanmar side, which continued to pressure Cambodia’s overwhelmed defence. Just five minutes after his first goal, Zaw Min Tun managed another header off a set piece, this time a corner kick, to send the home crowd into raucous celebration.
Up 2-1 at the half, Myanmar continued to drive at Cambodia’s net, with Kaung Sett Naing threatening twice in the first five minutes. Both times Cambodian keeper Sou Yaty stood up to the test, working towards a strong performance that wasn’t reflected on the score sheet.
In the 56th minute, however, Sou Yaty could not come up with the stop against Aung Thu’s off-balanced, leftfooted finish from inside the box. His second goal of the tournament put the game out of reach for the Cambodian team, who began pushing their midfielders forward in hopes of a desperate comeback.
The pinch left them vulnerable to Myanmar rushes and failed to produce any considerable chances for the Cambodia forwards. Vathanaka in particular looked hobbled by a collision he sustained in the first half, and Myanmar managed to play a possession game through the final third of the match.
What’s next? Though more fans turned up for the match against Vietnam earlier this week, the crowd still numbered over 12,000 in last night’s contest. Some of the decrease in attendance could be attributed to the We Are Connected music festival that happened simultaneously, featuring world-famous DJ Armin Van Buuren.
Myanmar is slated to face off next against Malaysia on November 26, but fans may need to follow the news over the next few days to see if the game happens at all. Malaysian media reported some efforts to boycott the tournament in response to Myanmar’s alleged mistreatment of minority Muslims in Rakhine State.
In a Malay Mail story published yesterday, Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin confirmed reports that he was lobbying for the team to boycott the rest of the tournament, despite it having already played two games.
“What is the meaning of sports without humanity? More than that, it is an extreme cruelty against one of mankind’s ethnic groups, and they are Muslims,” he was quoted as saying.
Were they to pull out of the Suzuki Cup, however, the Malaysian team could face penalties from FIFA, which has statutes that dictate members must remain neutral in politics and religion. A FIFA spokesperson told Reuters that the body is observing the Malaysia situation but declined to comment further.
Because they own the goal differential tiebreaker over Malaysia, Myanmar needs only a draw – if the game is played – to clinch second place in Group B and earn their ticket to the semi-final round against Group A winners Thailand.
Zeise noted that the pressure will be heavy in the weekend match.
“We can make the semi-final with just a one-point draw,” he said, “but we will target a three-point victory.” – Additional reporting by
Kyaw Zin Hlaing
Zaw Win Tun (centre) heads a corner kick into the net to give Myanmar a 2-1 lead over Cambodia yesterday at Thuwunna Stadium. The White Angels would go on to win 3-1. During the early game, Malaysian fans (inset) watch in horror as their side loses to Vietnam 1-0 on an 80th minute goal. Malaysians may be leaving Yangon early if their government decides to boycott the Cup.