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Young Tigers set to challenge PVF Vietnam for Asia Champions Trophy Under-16

Harimau Muda U-16 scored three goals to sink Chonburi FC in this second leg semi-finals of the Asia Champions Trophy U-16 2014 at Chonburi Stadium last night.

Coach S. Balachandran’s young tigers had defeated the Thais 3-1 in the first leg semi-finals encounter and go through to the final on a 6-1 aggregate. They will meet PVF Vietnam in the August 25 and August 31 home-and-away final.

The Vietnamese had earlier dashed Frenz United Malaysia’s hopes with an 84th minute Le Ngoc Bao strike in the second leg semi-finals on Sunday to go through to the final on 4-0 aggregate.

Striker Muhammad Najmuddin Samat started the goal-scoring act for Harimau Muda U-16 in the 58th minute, sidestepping goalkeeper Chakhon Philakhlang to blast the ball into an open goalmouth while Mohd Zulkhairi Mohd silenced the 3,000-odd home fans with a well-placed shot three minute later.

Dynamic striker Kogisleswaran Raj made it 3-0 in the 89th minute from a solo effort after picking a cross from skipper Mohd Amirul Ashraf down the right flank. It was his 12th goal in the tournament.

Defending champions Chonburi FC took to the field with their most lethal striker - Sittichok Paso, and an equally dangerous midfielder Kritthanaphong Paiden who has never failed to turned opportunities that came his way into goal.

With 15 goals to his credit and a leading candidate for the 2014 ACT Top Striker award, Sittichok’s presence on the field brought about a great sense of confidence in the team.

Confidence was what Chonburi FC needed the most tonight to turn around a two-goal deficit following their 3-1 defeat in the first leg semi-finals barely a week ago. 

Close to 3,000 fans showed up to throw their support behind the home team and for the first eight minutes of play the young tigers had to endure several crucial moments, the closest one being from a corner that almost resulted in goal. Fortunately for the Malaysians, the much-reliable Paiden fumbled in front of goalmouth.

On the opposite end, Harimau Muda Under-16 skipper Muhammad Shahrul Akmal attempted a 35-metre long-range shot in the 13th minute which sailed straight into the arms of goalkeeper Chakhon.

With no goals forthcoming, tension and temperatures in the Chonburi FC camp soon soared. Play turned into robust with Kogisleswaran becoming their main target. He was rouged-up twice within a space of one minute which warranted instant dismissal on the perpetrators.

The protest from Malaysians officials, however, fell on deaf ears as match referee Thorik Alkatiri from Indonesia saw no reason to act so. The first half ended scoreless.

But the second half turned into a nightmare for Chonburi FC as they had no answers to the discipline and cohesion of the young tigers, who struck when it mattered most.

“As I have said before we are a national side and most clubs sides will come very hard at us. We saw this tonight but overall I am very happy with the performance of my boys who showed great discipline to win 3-0 away,” said Balachandran.

“We now look forward to playing PVF Vietnam in the final and our plans will always remain the same, he added.

Chonburi FC head coach, Withaya Laohakul, said: “I have always recognised Harimau Muda as the strongest team in this tournament. They are a very good side. Although I was hoping to pull off a surprise win here but that never came.”

Meanwhile, it was indeed a sad ending for Frenz United Malaysia following a brilliant start to this second edition of the ACT in front of an estimated 1,000 fans.

Expectations ran high of two-Malaysian teams moving into the final of ACT 2014, which boasts one of the most lucrative prize money ever offered in the Asian region for an under-age tournament, following Harimau Muda U-16 team and Frenz United Malaysia’s qualification into the semi-finals.