Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Myanmar looking the team to beat

Myanmar play host Malaysia today and, if form is any indication, they should be clear favourites heading into their last group fixture having won all their matches by convincing margins.

So convincing has been their performance that, if there is one team who have shown they are gold medal contenders, it has to be Myanmar, the losing finalists at the last SEA Games in Singapore. 

Gerd Zeise’s side have been impressive in all the three matches they have played so far and have really racked up the goals, hitting 11 and conceding only once.

Myanmar have grown in strength as the tournament has progressed, with the opening 2-0 win over Singapore followed by a 3-1 triumph over Laos and an impressive 6-0 win over Brunei.

Myanmar have been solid as a unit but the stand-out player has to be Aung Thu, who has four goals to his name.

What makes him the focal point in the team has to be his consistency as the striker found the back of the net in all three games.  

Myanmar, already assured of a place in the semi-finals, will be counting on more from Aung Thu today.

Malaysia, as yet unbeaten, has six points from two matches and Myanmar nine from three, therefore a draw should be enough to send Myanmar, already assured of a place in the semi-finals, top of their group because of Myanmar’s far superior goal differential.

Malaysia have scored four goals and conceded two so far. One advantage the home team has is they play their last group match against winless Laos on August 23.

Elsewhere, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Malaysia, the first sultan to compete in the biennial games, galloped to victory after nearly six hours in the 80-kilometre endurance race yesterday.

Sultan Mizan, 55, ruler of northeast Terengganu state, led home teammates in second and third, but the third-place finisher couldn’t take the bronze because rules prohibit teams from sweeping the podium. Regardless, Malaysia also won the team gold from Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, and Brunei.

The sultan, ranked fourth in the world in endurance racing, is not the only royal among 4,000 athletes at the games.

Thailand Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana and her horse, Prince Charming, are competing in equestrian dressage and jumping events. The 30-year-old princess, daughter of King Vajiralongkorn and granddaughter of the late King Bhumibol, previously competed in the games in 2005, in the Thai badminton team that won a gold medal.

Another competing royal is footballer Faiq Bolkiah, the 19-year-old son of Brunei Prince Jefri Bolkiah and nephew of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Faiq, a midfielder for the reserve team of English Premier League club Leicester, made his debut at the 2015 Games in Singapore and is helming the Brunei team for a second time.

Singapore captured its 27th men’s water polo gold yesterday to keep its longest winning streak in sports alive.

In their previous match on Friday Singapore were held to a shock draw by Indonesia. Going into the final yesterday they needed to beat their opponents, Malaysia, by at least two goals to retain the title. Any hopes the host nation may have entertained of an upset were quashed as Singapore won by a comfortable 17-4 margin. It was their 27th straight SEA Games gold and cemented their status as the region’s kingpins.

At futsal, Indonesia sprang a surprise yesterday when they beat powerhouse Thailand 4-2 in their first game of the SEA Games competition.

The Thais – three-time winners of the event – had beaten Vietnam a few days earlier, and expectations were high that they would romp to their second win in as many matches.

Meanwhile, Pang Xue Jie and Yu Mengyu missed out on winning Singapore’s first table tennis gold, losing to their Thai opponents in the mixed doubles final.

The duo were beaten by Padasak Tanviriyavechakul and Suthasini Sawettabut 11-7, 9-11, 6-11, 8-11.

Their loss signaled the end of Singapore’s victorious streak that began from the 1999 edition in Brunei, with the only exception in 2013, when the mixed doubles event was not contested in Myanmar.

At cricket, Singapore won their second consecutive match in the men’s 50-over format yesterday by four wickets, but after a mighty from minnows Myanmar.

Chasing 99 runs to win, Singapore got off to a bright start, putting on 44 runs for the opening wicket.

Then they lost four quick wickets as Myanmar medium-pacer Paing Danu (5-23) wreaked havoc, and it was left to Varun Sivaram (7 not out) and Anantha Krishna (5 not out) to see Singapore through.

Singapore top the table with four points, with hosts Malaysia, who have played only one match, second on two points.

The Singaporeans had earlier beaten Indonesia.

Singapore next play Thailand, who are third on two points, today.

– Agencies

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