Myan­mar bests Malaysia in last-minute vic­tory

Myan­mar’s White An­gels scored 1-0 against Malaysia on Novem­ber 26, en­sur­ing they will ad­vance to the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-fi­nals for the first time in 11 years. Myan­mar will next face off with Thai­land, which is con­sid­ered the strong­est team in ASEAN.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PHOTO: AUNG HTAY HLAING

IN the 11 years since the White An­gels last made the AFF Cup semi­fi­nals, Myan­mar has adopted a new con­sti­tu­tion, elected a new demo­cratic-led gov­ern­ment and em­braced mo­bile phone tech­nol­ogy. Need­less to say, it’s been a while. But the wait is over thanks to mid­fielder David Htan’s 89th minute rocket from the top of the box in Thuwunna Sta­dium on Novem­ber 26. The score gave Myan­mar a 1-0 vic­tory over Malaysia and a berth in a two-legged semi-fi­nal against Thai­land on De­cem­ber 4 (home) and De­cem­ber 8 (away).

“We’re not lucky, con­sid­er­ing we drew Thai­land in the semi-fi­nal,” coach Gerd Zeise joked af­ter the game. “Thai­land is the strong­est team in ASEAN. But we’ll do our jobs. We’ll be ready.”

Head­ing into their fi­nal group­stage match, Myan­mar needed a draw or win to ad­vance against Malaysia. Ru­mours of a boy­cott swirled, as Malaysian Youth and Sports Min­is­ter Khairy Ja­malud­din called for an of­fi­cial re­sponse to al­le­ga­tions that the Tat­madaw is mis­treat­ing a Mus­lim eth­nic mi­nor­ity in Rakhine State.

But the min­is­ter an­nounced the day be­fore the game that foot­ball would go on as planned, with a dif­fer­ent re­sponse not in­volv­ing sports un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

His an­nounce­ment cleared the way for a tense matchup be­tween the co-hosts and the 2014 fi­nal­ists, who have his­tor­i­cally dom­i­nated at the Suzuki Cup. In an at-ca­pac­ity sta­dium filled with nearly 33,000 scream­ing Myan­mar fans, the favoured Malaysian side to con­tinue their win­ning ways at the 6th minute, when Ah­mad Hazwan Bakri beat keeper Kyaw Zin Phyo only to see his shot ca­reen off the goal­post.

But from that ini­tial scare on­ward, the White An­gels turned the ta­bles and dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion. Striker Aung Thu nearly net­ted a free kick in the 10th minute, and two min­utes later earned a penalty af­ter some fancy foot­work in the box.

Though his weak ef­fort would be safely col­lected by Malaysian keeper Khairul Fahmi, the veteran for­ward con­tin­ued to drive play – with another free-kick smash­ing off the up­right just be­fore the half.

Malaysia subbed in English-born Dar­ren Lok as the game wound to a close, look­ing for a mirac­u­lous goa­head goal as they strug­gled to string to­gether co­her­ent pass­ing. But it was Myan­mar who found the back of the net two min­utes to end time, when Htan found space at the edge of the box and blasted one into the low, near cor­ner.

The score sent the home crowd into hys­te­ria, se­cur­ing at least one more Suzuki Cup match to be played in Yan­gon.

Af­ter the game, Malaysian boss Ong Kim Swee said Myan­mar’s play­ers were sim­ply too fast.

“They never gave us a chance,” he said. “I tried to sub in younger play­ers at the end of the match to help us keep up, but when we gave up that last-minute goal, our de­fend­ers lost their fo­cus.”

The loss is only the third time in Suzuki Cup his­tory that Malaysia has failed to ad­vance past the knock­out stage.

In the other Group B game, Viet­nam beat Cam­bo­dia 2-1 on Novem­ber 26 de­spite go­ing down a man early in the first half. They’ll play In­done­sia on De­cem­ber 3 and 7. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by

Kyaw Zin Hlaing

Pho­tos: Aung Htay Hlaing

Mid­fielder David Htan squares up a shot against Malaysia on Novem­ber 26.

David Htan jumps on the back of for­ward Than Paing. The game’s hero scored the win­ning goal just be­fore stop­page time to send Myan­mar to the semi-fi­nal against Thai­land.

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