Maloney proud of second place finish despite final heartbreak

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Malaysia succumbed to a second half goal to Australia to only finish as runners-up in the 2019 Next Media AFF U18 Championship.

Less than 48 hours was all Brad Maloney and his staff had to prepare his team after an exhausting semi-final clash against Indonesia that went into extra time. Australia did not have to face the same circumstances in their semi-final against Myanmar and the marginal difference was all that was needed to turn the final into the Young Socceroos' favour.

Ricky Brook grabbed the all important winner midway through the second half and in the end, Australia secured their fifth success at these championships. Agonisingly, the goal came during a period of the match where Malaysia were very much on top but just could not turn their dominance into a goal.

Australia had the better of the exchanges in the first half but Malaysia's defence kept their cool to deny their counterparts with Sikh Izhan in particularly inspiring form. Relying a lot on getting Luqman Hakim to use his pace to break down Australia's defence, Malaysia's attack had a very narrow look to them.

Malaysia U18 v Australia U18, AFF U18 Championship, 19 Aug 2019

“The second half was much better for us. We exerted more pressure on Australia and were probably unlucky not to get on the scoresheet first. But that’s football, they had one chance and took it. When the draw came out and people were talking about the group of death and all that, not many gave us much chance to qualify for the final.

“So for my players to achieve that, it’s a fantastic achievement for the whole team,” said Maloney after the final.

Having already beaten Australia in the group stage, high hopes were pinned on the team to repeat their feat in the final but it was obvious that Australia had learnt their lessons from the 3-0 defeat. They were the first to come to grips with the bumpy pitch and set about dominating the midfield area.

Any defeat in the final is always disappointing but there can be plenty of positives that can be taken by Maloney and the team from this run to the final. In Luqman there's an obvious star centre forward in the making and further behind, Harith Haiqal is continuing the trend of solid composed centre backs that Malaysian football always has been able to produce.

 

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