SINGAPORE – The national under-23 (U-23) squad must now hope for a miracle to advance into the semi-finals of the SEA Games 2015 after losing 1-0 against defending champions Thailand in its third Group B match played at Bishan Stadium, here, today.
The result leaves the squad managed by Datuk Ong Kim Swee hoping that the two top teams, Vietnam and Thailand, lose their remaining two fixtures in Group B.
Malaysia would also need to win their remaining two matches against Brunei on June 8 and Laos three days later, to have any hope of entering the next round.
In today’s action, the national squad got off to a quick start by launching an attack as soon as Chinese referee Ma Ning blew the starting whistle.
The national side had a great chance of opening the scoreline in the 13th minute, however, team captain Gary Steven Robbat spurned the opportunity, straying the shot wide when he only had the Thai goalkeeper, Sae-Ear Chanin, to beat.
Both teams tried to get something going against the other, but poor finishing from both sides saw the scoresheet goalless at half-time.
In the second half, Thailand upped their tempo, searching for the third win in their SEA Games campaign this time.
The national squad matched them by launching speedy counter-attacks and striker Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim almost put Malaysia ahead. However, his shot in the 58th minute was kept out by Chanin.
The squad’s complacency in marking Thai captain Sarach Yooyen cost them dearly when the Muangthong United FC player put the young ‘War Elephants’ ahead in the 80th minute with a sublime strike with his left foot into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The score remained until the referee blew the final whistle.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Kim Swee attributed their second consecutive defeat to the tight scheduling, in which they only had one rest day as well as his boys’ failure to convert goal-scoring chances.
The 44-year-old coach also conceded that the short one-week preparation time before the SEA Games had also contributed to the team’s poor performance.
“You can see how we prepared our teams four years ago (in Indonesia) and also two years ago (in Myanmar). So, we have to look back at our preparation programmes.
“We also have to admit that Thailand and Vietnam are above us at the moment, so we can’t say it’s all about our preparation but also look at the opponents, how they prepared their teams,” Kim Swee said, without divulging on his future after the Games.
Malaysia recorded a 1-0 win against Timor Leste in the opening Group B match on May 30 before stumbling to a humiliating 1-5 defeat to Vietnam, two days ago.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s U-23 head coach, Choketawee Promrut praised his young charges for a commendable job, but admitted that there was room for improvement in certain areas of the squad.
“I was quite suprised that we managed to get a goal in the penultimate minute as Malaysia had given us a good fight throughtout the game. We will try our best to win the two remaining group matches,” Promrut added. – BERNAMA