AFC U-16 Championship: Thailand beat Malaysia to stay alive

FC Tokyo beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 to go top of J League

Gabriel Tan

Thailand are still in with a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship after beating hosts Malaysia 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

Suphanat Mueanta was the hero for the Thais at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium with a clinical double inside the opening 21 minutes, which went a long way in helping his side bounce back from Thursday’s 5-2 defeat at the hands of Japan.

On the other hand, Malaysia will be left wondering what could have been following another impressive display which ultimately came undone as they had to play the final 40 minutes a man down after a straight red to star man Luqman Hakim.

Having thrashed Tajikistan 6-2 in their opening match and knowing that another victory would effectively seal their quarter-final spot with a tough test against Japan still to come, Malaysia could have done without helping their opponents to a third-minute lead.

A poor touch by Harith Haiqal as he tried to control Raimi Shamsul’s throw-in handed possession straight to Suphanat, who raced into the box before beating Abdul Alim Al-Amri with a deft finish.

Just nine minutes later, the hosts responded when Alif Mutalib swung a cross in from the right and Luqman – the four-goal hero from Thursday – did well to outleap opposition keeper Anuchid Taweesri and head home.

Suphanat, who has already opened his professional account for Thai giants Buriram United, was however looming as a real threat and duly doubled his tally for the afternoon in the 21st minute.

Leading a charge through the middle to the edge of the area, the 16-year-old then cut inside Hariz Mansor before placing a low shot into the back of the net.

Once again, Malaysia managed to find a response three minutes into the second half and – again – the work was done by Alif, who refused to give up on what looked like a lost cause down the byline and dribbled past two defenders before laying off for Firdaus to finish from close range.

But, just two minutes later, Lim Teong Kim’s young charges were dealt a real blow when Luqman was shown a straight red for a high boot into the upper body of Kittichai Yaidee.

Although the striker appeared to have eyes only for the ball, there was a valid argument that his foot was still in an unnaturally high and dangerous position.

And Thailand went on to make their numerical advantage count in the 57th minute when a lovely slide-rule pass by Thanarin Thumsen in behind two defenders found Waragon Thongbai, who coolly slotted through the legs of Abdul Alim.

To their credit, Malaysia did try their best to find an equaliser but it was always going to be an uphill task and they ended up handing their opponents a fourth with five minutes remaining.

Having seen his backline give the ball straight to Suphanat inside the box, Malaysia keeper Abdul Alim did well to deny the Thai his hat-trick with a smart one-on-one save, only for one of his defenders – in a bid to deny Apidet Janngam an easy finish – to head the ball into his own goal.

With Japan being held to a 0-0 draw by Tajikistan later on Sunday, Group A remains evenly poised ahead of Wednesday’s final round of matches with the Japanese on top with four points, Thailand and Malaysia level on three but with the former ahead by virture of their superior head-to-head record, and Tajikistan bottom with a solitary point but still in with a shout of reaching the knockout round.

THAILAND: Anuchid Taweesri, Arthit Bua-ngam, Kittichai Yaidee, Jakkrapong Sanmahung, Chatmongkol Ruengthanarote, Sarawut Saowaros, Thanaret Thumsen (Kittiphong Khetpara 81’), Thanarin Thumsen, Thanakrit Laorkai (Punnawat Chote-jirachaithon 39’), Waragon Thongbai (Apidet Janngam 76’), Suphanat Mueanta.

MALAYSIA: Abdul Alim Al-Amri, Raimi Shamsul, Hariz Mansor (Ali Imran Sukari 60’), Firdaus Ramli, Ahmad Zikri Khalili, Harith Haiqal (Syukur Fariz 36’), Firdaus Kaironnisam, Alif Mutalib, Najmuddin Akmal (Amirul Azzim Ruzki 54’), Umar Hakeem, Luqman Hakim.