Myan­mar fly­ing high a er win over Cam­bo­dia

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - RJ VOGT rj.vogt@mm­times.com

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

Pho­tos: Nyan Zay Htet

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.

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