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.
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
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.