Friday, August 18, 2017

Myanmar go down fighting

Myanmar put up a spirited performance last night but it was not enough to deny Australia as the hosts went down 0-3 in their last Group F qualifying match for the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in front of a partisan crowd packed to the rafters.

Australia, who had thrashed Brunei 7-0 in their previous outing, proved too good for Myanmar as well last night. Aung Kant / The Myanmar TimesAustralia, who had thrashed Brunei 7-0 in their previous outing, proved too good for Myanmar as well last night. Aung Kant / The Myanmar Times

Played at the Thuwana stadium, Myanmar conceded an early goal – in the sixth minute scored by Bruce Kamau – and found itself under pressure for most of the match thereafter against an opponent rated 112 places higher in FIFA ranking. The goal muted the cheering and celebration of the raucous 30,000-plus spectators who had turned up to cheer their team and in anticipation of an upset and a ticket to the AFC U-23 Championship scheduled next January in China.

Australia’s captain Jonathan Aspropotamitis made it 2-0 before the interval and Jaushua Sotirio added a third in the 58th minute,

If Myanmar finish the Group F round-robin qualifying competition in second place – and there are 10 groups altogether – they still stand a chance of going to China, because apart from the group winners who automatically qualify, the five best second-place finishers also progress to the main competiton.

Myanmar, with a record of two wins against one loss, will need to wait the outcome of other matches before it can entertain hopes of making the cut.

Meanwhile, on Friday, in their second match of the competition, Myanmar blanked Brunei 3-0.

The scoreline vindicated coach Gerd Zeise’s decision to rejig his starting eleven. He fielded four new players, including Nyein Chan Aung, who did not play in Myanmar’s opening match against Singapore the hosts won 2-0.

It took the midfielder, returning from a long injury, only 20 minutes to vindicate the faith coach Zeise had placed in him, as he headed in Myanmar’s first goal. It was first time in two years Nyein Chan Aung had played from start. And he also slotted Myanmar’s third and final goal late into the second half after both teams had had a player sent off. In between another substitute, defender Naing Lin Tun, scored a splendid long range goal from midfield on the stroke of half time to put his team 2-0 up at the interval.

The 3-0 scoreline does not fully reflect the extent of Myanmar’s dominance over Brunei as the hosts made a mess of several scoring chances. Nyein Chan Aung was easily the best player on the field.

“I can see it is time to bring him in full time again,’’ Zeise said of Nyein Chan Aung after the match. The midfielder is in the national squad for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia. What he lacks is match practice. He needs more time out there is the middle to regain power in his legs and sharpen his reflexes, feels the coach.

Meanwhile, in their opening match on July 19, Myanmar defeated Singapore 2-0 in an ill-tempered match played under pelting rain in front of a raucous crowd and marred by power outage.

Darling of local fans, striker Aung Thu, opened the account for the hosts in the 60th minute and Hlaing Bo Bo added a second in injury time.

The first power outage occurred before start of the match, just as the Myanmar national anthem was being played, blacking out the stadium including the electronic scoreboard. But that did not prove a damper as the spectators kept singing, cheering. After power returned, the anthem was played again and the 30,200-capacity crowd joined the players, singing and bringing the anthem to a rousing finish.

The singing was followed by a minute’s silence to commemorate General Aung San, the Father of the Nation.

By the time the match got going the ground was already water logged making ball control difficult. So tempers flared as the match progressed, with players from both teams receiving yellow and red cards.

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