Malaysia got their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign off to a winning start after coming from behind to seal a nerve-wrecking 3-2 win over Cambodia in Yangon, earlier today.
It was never going to be an easy evening for both sides, with the temperature hitting the 35 degrees mark, but it only took seven minutes for Cambodia to break the deadlock and make it 1-0 courtesy of a strange goal. Vathanaka found himself with the ball in an offside position, though the referee was quick to spot that the final pass came from a Malaysian player. He waved play on, and Vathanaka capitalised by beating Khairul Fahmi to put his side ahead.
Malaysia continued to huff and puff after that and they came close on several instances. But Syazwan Zainon, whose inclusion in the squad was widely questioned before kick-off, produced a stunning goal to level the score before half-time and ease the pressure on Datuk Ong’s shoulder. But Cambodia rallied back in the second half and essentially scored against the run of play, yet again. Vathanaka found himself with space on the right edge of the box, but he showed tremendous skill and composure to edge past Davies and Shahrom Kalam before curling a fine shot in the bottom corner of the goal.
But just when it appeared that Cambodia (read = Vathanaka) had done enough to put a dent on Malaysia’s hopes of gaining three points, Hazwan Bakri showed a bit of pace to get into Cambodia’s penalty area and square it off for Amri, who made no mistakes by tapping home to restore parity on the 69th minute. 11 minutes later, Amri scored yet another strike before deservingly running off to produce his own version of the ‘Mannequin Challenge’. That goal proved to be the winner as Malaysia held on to secure a morale-boosting start to the their Suzuki Cup campaign.
Here are three players that impressed us today!
Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s decision to include Syazwan in his starting eleven surprised a large majority of Malaysian fans, considering he had the likes of Hadin Azman and even Zaquan Adha on his bench. But the Kedah winger responded with a fantastic performance on the left flank, silencing every single one of his critics out there. The Kedah flanker scored Malaysia’s first goal of the day, but he was a constant source of threat every time Malaysia broke forward. In fact, Syazwan could have scored a stunning second goal merely minutes into the second half, though the bar prevented it from going in.
Much of the pre-match talk was dominated by Chan Vathanaka and how his pace could hurt Malaysia in Myanmar. Unsurprisingly, he did just that earlier today, scoring two goals to cap off a sensational performance that will undoubtedly alert scouts all over Southeast Asia. Cambodia’s 3-5-2 system always meant that they were going to break away with pace at every opportunity and Vathanaka’s dynamism made it difficult for Malaysia’s defenders to mark him closely.
So much was said about Malaysia and their ‘new’ squad, but it still took an old guard to step up and rescue them from the brink of abyss. When Vathanaka pounced on Malaysia’s poor defence to score Cambodia’s second goal of the night, it almost seemed like the Tigers were on their way to a disappointing start. But Amri’s persistence and composure essentially fueled the comeback as the JDT man scored two goals to inspire a 3-2 win in Yangon.