Malaysia U23 2-1 Myanmar U23: Irfan and Wan Zack to the rescue for the Young Tigers
Malaysia U23 trumped Myanmar U23 in a come-from-behind victory in the second round of the Merdeka Tournament with goals from Irfan Fazail and Wan Zack Haikal
By Sadat Osman
Malaysia Under-23 walked into their Round 2 tie of the Merdeka Tournament boosted with a win against Singapore Under-23 and grabbed all three points once more, this time against Myanmar Under-23.
The home side went down in the first half courtesy of a Nay Lin Tun strike but they fought back in the second period with goals from Irfan Fazail and a stunning freekick from Wan Zack Haikal.
Ong Kim Swee started the game without K. Reuben but went with the young talent in Nazmi Faiz playing just behind the striker Thamil Arasu.
Myanmar typically started with their star player in Kyi Lin taking over the duties at the left flank.
Wan Zack made his intentions known with only three minutes gone after he cut in from the right-hand side with ease to take a shot with his left foot only to hit it straight at Pyaye Phya Aung in between the posts.
The Young Tigers pressed high from the get-go but chances were few and far between, while the Burmese tried very hard to get them on the counterattack.
It took 10 minutes for the visitors to conjure anything upfront after Kyi Lin released Kyaw Zayar Win on the left. A poorly cleared cross got into the path of Kyi Lin who scoffed his shot wide of the left post.
Zayar Win was in the spotlight five minutes later after he stood over a freekick at the far left. His wicked cross-shot was sneaking into the far post but Izham Tarmizi was alert to palm the ball to safety.
Malaysia then responded in the 16th minute when Irfan launched a long ball into the box from midfield which bundled into the path of Fadhli Shas who mishit it way over the bar from close range.
Four minutes later Wan Zack slammed a rocket of a freekick from 40 yards which ricocheted off the crossbar to the dismay of the home fans. He later broke free after Irfan found him with a through ball with only the keeper to beat but Phya Aung was at full-stretch to save.
Controversy ensued in the 25th minute when Junior Eldstal found the net from a Wan Zack corner but the referee disallowed it saying that he hasn’t blown the whistle for it to be taken.
Myanmar struggled for the rest of the half to conjure anything upfront as Malaysia dominated possession, taking control of the midfield via Nazmi and Irfan knocking the ball forward for Thamil, Saarvindren and Wan Zack to chase.
Against the run of play, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock. Lin Tun’s shot in the 38th minute wasn’t very hard but Izham failed to keep it out despite getting a hand to it.
With the goal, Malaysia appeared a little shell-shocked and the visitors took advantage to press for the second. However, Nik Shahrul and Eldstal did well to protect their goal.
At the break, Malaysia were down 1-0.
Off the whistle for the second half, the home side were quick to chase for the equaliser. However, the Burmese defence were dogged to break down everything thrown at them in the first five minutes of the second period.
With so much pressure on the visitors, Park Sung Hwa’s men resorted to parking the bus in an effort to preserve the lead. At one point, they had as many as seven men in the defence.
In the 62nd minute, Wan Zack again took a freekick too soon causing the referee to force him to retake it. His first attempt from long range could only find the palms of Phya Aung but it was his second that created the equaliser.
This time Wan Zack chose to chip the ball into the box instead of shoot. Eldstal hopped for the head on which was poorly handled by the Burmese defence and that allowed Irfan to slot home from close range to bring things level at the Darul Makmur Stadium.
The momentum shifted in the favour of the home side from then which saw the Young Tigers claw for the winner.
If not for Phya Aung’s heroics in goal, Thamil and Wan Zack had back to back opportunities that would have sealed the game with a little less than 20 minutes to go.
Fourteen minutes from time, the visitors defence shut down for a split second which allowed Thamil a pop at goal from just inside the box. It was deflected into the path of Eldstal who then cannoned his shot off the right post.
The Young Tigers’ tenacity finally paid off in the 79th minute from a dead-ball situation. Standing over a freekick just at the edge of the Myanmar penalty area, Wan Zack stylishly swerved his right-footed shot in to the top corner with the keeper stranded.
Malaysia had the 2-1 lead.
An Izham blunder in the 85th minute almost cost Malaysia their advantage but Phyo Ko Ko Thein’s effort from near the penalty spot rolled just wide of the left post.
Malaysia did well to preserve their well-earned lead to secure a place in the final of the Merdeka Tournament.
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Malaysia Under 23
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