YANGON - Goalkeeper Muhamad Ilham AmirullahRazali turned hero when he saved the first two penalties in a thrilling shootout to pave the way for Malaysia to grab the bronze medal in the AFF Under-19 Championship at the Youth Training Centre Stadium here, Wednesday (21/9/11).
With the rain-interrupted match finishing 0-0 after an intense 90-minute battle, the teams had to settle score in a penalty showdown. Malaysia eventually won the shootout 4-2.
After solidly supporting their team, even after the two-hour delay, the fans were silenced with disbelief when Ye Ko Oo’s opening shot to the left was saved by Ilham. They knew it was all but over when Ilham moved right to stop Aung Ko Ko Win’s second shot.
Myanmar netted their next two penalties but it was too late as Malaysia had scored all theirs, including the winner by Muhammad AkramMahinan. Earlier, Shahrul Mohd Saad, Muhamad Akhir Bahari and Nur Areff Kamaruddin were all on target.
The match was originally scheduled to start at 3.30pmbut the pouring rain, not that it was unexpected for the weather throughout the tournament had been bad, eventually forced the game to begin at 5.30pm. By then to the relief of the organizers, the rain had eased considerably.
As the game started, all attention were on Myanmar who were aiming to win today to make amends for failing to qualify for the final. Myanmar took some time to get their pistons fired up but when they did, they began to pressure the Malaysian goal.
The Malaysians held their ground as Myanmar started taking shots. Ye Ko Oo gave the fans something to sheer about when he blasted just over the bar. In the 36th minute, there were more groans as YanNaing Htwe’s header slipped over.
There was more despair as Kyaw Zay Ya’s close range effort in the last few minutes was off the mark. Malaysia could have gone into the break ahead but Shahrul Mohd Saad fired into the far post while Muhamad Shafiq Azman missed the rebound.
The second half saw the players slowing down but it was dueto the heavy pitch which caused them to tire fast. Myanmar resorted to forcing long balls into the box which were aimed at their striekrs Kaung Sat Naing, Yan Naing Htwe and Thiha Zaw. They triedbut none of their efforts made it through.
The Malaysians went for the break,but they too failed to get theirs shots in, thus forcing the playoff intopenalties.
As this was a third-fourth placing tie, the organisers had decided well in advance that there would not be extra time. The extra time rule would however apply for the final.
Malaysian coach Ismail Ibrahim was proud of his charges. “Congratsto the all the players, they did well today. I was really proud of them and the way they handled themselves. It was a tough game in these conditions.”