Malaysia U23 2-0 Myanmar U23: Harimau Muda dominate to win Merdeka Cup
Malaysia U23 picked up their 10th Merdeka Cup with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Myanmar with strikes from Rozaimi Rahman and Junior Eldstal.
In the opening stages it was the visiting Myanmar side who settled the quickest, passing the ball crisply and looking comfortable in possession. However despite much neat build-up play, the White Angels often looked toothless in attack with Kyaw Ko Ko isolated.
The Young Tigers continued to press hard during the first half, disrupting the football of Myanmar and as a result, creating numerous goal scoring chances.
In the 15thminute the home team had the ball in the back of the net as Rozaimi Rahman met Syahrul Azwari’s beautiful volleyed cross at the far post, however referee Abdul Malik correctly spotted that the forward had cheekily tried to handle the ball into the net, and he was correctly cautioned.
As the first period wore on, it was Wan Zack who was growing in influence, and he played a key part in the opening goal. Defender Fadhli Shas started the move with a marvellous tackle deep within his own half, before sending a searching ball forward for Haikal. Taking the ball in his stride Wan Zack continued to break forward and took a shot from the edge of the area which went through Yan Aung Win's legs, Myanmar keeper Phaye Phyo Aung spilled the shot and Rozaimi followed up to slot home his third goal of the competition.
Wan Zack created another chance in the 34thminute, this time from a set-piece. Rozaimi got on the end of his near post corner with a free header, but Phyo Aung demonstrated lightening quick reflexes to turn the ball behind.
In first half stoppage time Myanmar had their best chance of the half as the ever dangerous Kyi Lin collected the ball on the left-hand side of the pitch, before cutting inside K. Reuben and firing just over.
The home team continued their dominance as the second half began with Wan Zack again in the thick of the action. This time he was teed up by Thamil Arasu who played a good ball out wide, allowing Wan Zack to cut inside left-back Thein Than Win and try to arrow the ball into the top corner, but he got too much power on the ball and it narrowly went over.
On the hour both teams exchanged one-on-one chances. Firstly Thamil was played through on goal, but his good low shot was well turned behind by Phyo Aung.
Then Myanmar demonstrated that they would be a threat on the counter as Kyaw Ko Ko got in behind the Malaysia defence. He tried to catch Izham Tarmizi out at the near post but the Malaysian custodian saved excellently to keep it 1-0.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure to get a second goal which would surely have put the game to bed. Thamil had another good chance after Myanmar again could not clear Wan Zack’s cross, he easily went past Thet Naing in the area but Phyo Aung deflected the ball away. Minutes later and another cross was met by a Malaysia player, this time it was Fadhli who rose highest, but his header struck the top of the bar and went behind.
Just as it seemed that Malaysia would make the game safe, Myanmar had arguably their best chance of the game in the 78thminute. It came following a smart near post cross by David Htan which was met by Kyaw Ko Ko with a deft flicked header, but Tarmizi again saved brilliantly to keep his teams lead.
In the final stages of the match Malaysia continued their frenetic work rate and pressing to stifle Myanmar.
The much deserved second goal did eventually come in the 94thminute and it was Junior Eldstal who finally got on the scoresheet. The midfielder, who never stopped working throughout, forced Htoo Htoo Aung into a mistake before bursting through on goal and slotting home coolly.
The 2-0 win allowed Harimau Muda to pick up their 10thMerdeka Cup title, and further bolstered the reputation of coach Ong Kim Swee.