KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia edged their more fancied opponents Saudi Arabia 1-0 in their last Group C match in the AFC Under -23 Championship at the Kunshan Stadium in China today.
The result saw Malaysia qualifying for the quarterfinals after securing four points (one defeat, one draw and today’s victory).
Midfielder Danial Amier Norhisham from Felda United was the hero for Malaysia as his solitary goal in the match put Malaysia behind group champions Iraq.
In today’s action, team coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee made just one change, bringing in R. Kogileswaran in place of Jafri Firdaus Chew who was rested after Malaysia’s second match against Jordan on Saturday.
With the stakes so high, both teams went on the offensive despite pitch conditions not up to the mark and the Malaysians were able to contain the fast running Saudis in the first 20 minutes of the match.
Malaysia’s goal came in the 28th minute after a shot from Matthew Davies from the right was not cleared properly by the Saudi defence leaving Danial Amier who was not guarded to pounce and send in a piledriver past keeper Amin Al Bukhari.
The Saudis then piled on the pressure but the Malaysian boys showed that they could not be easily cowed.
In the second half, Saudi Arabia who had played to draws against Jordan and Iraq became more desperate and came close to equalising but Fahad Al Rashidi’s shot from outside the box in the 49th minute missed the mark by just inches.
Try as they might, coach Daniel Teglia’s boys could not break down the Malaysian defence until the final whistle.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Kim Swee described the result as history making and praised his boys for showing the “winning mentality”.
“I’m very satisfied in terms of the result and to get into the quarterfinals it’s history making for us and after what happened to our football scene, to achieve this stage it’s a great achievement. The players showed that they can compete with even superior teams, not only with Jordan but even Saudi Arabia.
“Overall the boys showed courage and determination to brings us to the quarterfinals. I don’t want to talk about how we played but in this kind of situation, the result is the most important thing. Massive achievement for out football,” he said.
Malaysia will be meeting the runners up of Group D in quarterfinals. Group D has South Korea , Vietnam, Australia and Syria and all are in the running for the top two spots. – BERNAMA