Laos U23 has qualified for the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time after defeating Malaysia U23 2-0 in the AFF U23 Championship 2022 Group B at Morodok Techo National Stadium, Phnom Penh.
Nonetheless, the match started on an even keel. With time Malaysia started to enjoy more of the ball but were far from threatening as they had little creativity in the attacking third. Meanwhile, Laos seemed to have a plan and they stuck to it with whatever little possession they had. Hans Weiss’ men sat deep but hardly missed an opportunity to attack on the break.
In fact, the first significant opportunity of the match fell for Laos. Bounphachanh Bounkong latched on to a long ball with a deft first touch and tried to lob over the keeper’s head. But Muhammad Bidin was alert and averted the danger with alacrity.
Boungkong and Phouvieng Phounsavath were playing in tandem which spelt more trouble for Malaysia. Bidin was called into action on numerous occasions and each time the shot-stopper proved his worth by pulling off some incredible saves.
In the 37th minute, Malaysia got the sniff of an opener when Laos’ keeper Keo-Udone Souvannasangso spilled the ball while collecting a routine delivery from a corner. Yet the Men in Yellow could not take advantage of that slip as they were too slow to react.
The highlight of the first half came in the 43rd minute when Bounphachanh Boungkong stole the limelight with a peach of a freekick. He tried his luck with a swerving attempt from 25 yards out which flew over the human wall and dipped in the nick of time to ripple the back of the net. Although Bidin got his palm to the ball, it was not enough to keep his team from falling behind.
Malaysia started the second half with more intent and purpose. They moved the ball around faster and were creating spaces to pull the trigger at goal. Azhad Harraz Arman got his shot on target in the 53rd minute but his effort lacked the bite that would beat Souvannasangso. Minutes later, they once again came close from a corner kick but Thivandaran Karnan’s shot was cleared from the goalline by Phetdavanh Somsanid. The Young Tigers were persistent in their search for an equaliser and kept trying with efforts from distance. When Laos’ resistance showed no signs of melting forward Muhammad Azhar was left a frustrated figure.
To add salt to the wound the Laos scored the second in the 86th minute. A mistake from Mohd. Isa Japar sent Bouaphaivanh through on goal who made calmly slotted the ball into the net. The scoreline could have been more embarrassing if Bidin had not timed his outing to perfection to save a shot from Chony Waenpaserth.
Over the two matches, Laos had been the better team and they deserve a spot in the knockouts. Whereas, Malaysia coach Brad Maloney would be a concerned man as he needs to go back to the drawing after these two consecutive losses.
Credit Photo : LFF