Harimau Muda ‘D’ overcame a sluggish first half performance to hold PVF Vietnam to a 3-3 draw in the return leg of the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy U-16 2014 final but won the championships title on a 5-4 aggregate victory at Frenz Stadium in Janda Baik, Pahang today.
The Young Tigers held a slim advantage going into the match today, having beaten PVF Vietnam 2-1 in the first leg at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday.
It was a perfect Merdeka Day gift from S. Balachandran’s Harimau Muda ‘D’ boys as the nation celebrates 57 years of independence today. For their pulsating effort, the Malaysians picked up the coveted trophy and a winner’s cheque of USD50,000 (RM165,000) while PVF Vietnam went home with USD25,000 (RM82,500) richer.
Frenz United Malaysia, who defeated defending, champions Chonburi FC 3-1 to finish third in the ACT 2014, pocketed US$15,000 (RM49,500) and Chonburi FC won US$7,500 (RM24,750) in the tournament which boasts one of the most lucrative prize money ever offered in the region for an under-age competition. The total prize money on offer in ACT 2014 is US$100,000 (RM330,000).
The accolades, however, did not stop there for Harimau Muda ‘D’ as skipper Muhammad Shahrul Akmal won the Most Valuable Player award which comes with a prize money of US$1,500 (RM4,950) while Chonburi FC’s Sittichok Paso walked away with the Top Striker award together with US$1,000 (RM3,300) reward.
The victory was also the ideal morale booster for Balachandran’s boys ahead of this weekend‘s Asian Football Confederation Under-16 Championships Final round in Bangkok. The top four teams will qualify for the 2015 Under-17 World Cup in Chile. The Young Tigers leave for Thailand on Thursday.
“I am very happy with the fighting spirit and mental strength of my players as they showed remarkable comeback after the early setback,” said Balachandran. “I believe the players are ready for AFC Under-16 championships after his morale boosting victory.”
The Malaysians trooped onto the pitch without two first choice players, centre back Hafiy Haikal Ismail who came off injured in the 3-1 defeat against Uzbekistan in a friendly last Thursday while midfielder Muhammad Syazwan Salihin received a second yellow card during the first leg. Abdul Ghaffar Rahman stepped in for Hafiy Haikal and Shyamerul Razmee Jasmi replaced Syazwan.
On a soggy pitch caused by a downpour two hours before start, it was the Vietnamese who first dictated terms in front of an estimated 3,000 fans that included FAM General-Secretary Dato’ Hamidin Mohd Amin, Frenz United FC president Dato’ Noor Ihsan Hamid and Frenz United FC chairman Ali Bakar as they pressed on the aggressive mode and fired on all cylinders.
Striker Nguyen Vu Tin failed to make good a header three minutes into the game after picking well-timed cross from midfielder Lam Thuan and an almost near-blunder by goalkeeper Muhd Asri Muhamad five minutes later in a poor clearance saw the ball deflecting off striker Pham Trong Hoa and rolled backwards towards the goalmouth. Fortunately for the Young Tigers, the ball headed the wrong direction and went out.
The Vietnamese were back within minutes after the early assault and earned their first goal of the night in the 11th minute from a free kick. Trong Hoa relayed the ball to Ho Minh Di who weaved past several defenders and fired a grounder shot past Mohd Asri. PVF Vietnam 1 Harimau Muda ‘D’ 0.
But Balachandran’s Young Tigers, however, were back in the grove and bounced back from the disappointment to score two goals in quick succession. Striker Kogileswaran Raj latched onto a short pass from Muhammad Najmuddin Samat in the 39th minute and blasted past goalkeeper Pha Van Bieu to level score 1-1 before skipper Mohd Shahrul Akmal drove home a 35-metre shot on the stroke of half-time which dipped into the back of the net to give the hosts a 2-1 lead for the first time.
The second half got off to the same tenacity and tempo as PVF Vietnam once again posed a danger to the Malaysians with their attacking play and domination. They were well rewarded 10 minutes after the interval through Nguyen Dinh Bao who scored the equaliser from a goalmouth melee.
However, the pulsating night belonged to Harimau Muda ‘D’ as Najmuddin turned in a rebound into goal in the 78th minute to stretch the lead to 3-2 much to the celebrations of the Malaysian bench and fans. But the Vietnamese were hardly outdone and pulled back to level score at 3-3 through Le Thanh Phong six minutes before the final whistle.
But it was simply a case of too late for the Vietnamese as Harimau Muda ‘D’ deservedly lifted the trophy in this second edition of ACT 2014.