Malaysia edge Singapore to Suzuki Cup last-four berth

Malaysia are through to the semi-finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after claiming a 3-1 win over Singapore to finish second in Group B.

Following a goalless first half at the National Stadium, Harimau Malaya took the lead in the 61st minute when the ball broke to Safee Sali inside the box, and the striker made no mistake in smashing an emphatic strike into the back of the net.

However, Singapore looked to have forced the draw they needed to advance when Khairul Amri pounced on rebound to score, after Safuwan Baharudin’s blistering freekick had been parried by Khairul Fahmi.

But as the clock ticked over into injury-time, Malaysia were controversially awarded a penalty after Amri Yahyah was adjuged to have been shoved from behind by Hafiz Abu Sujad; Safiq Rahim stepping up to the spot and firing past Hassan Sunny’s despairing dive.

And right at the death, with Hassan up in the other box in a last-ditch attempt to grab an equaliser, the Malaysians cleared their lines and hit on the counter before Indra Putra Mahayuddin slotted into the unguarded net from 30 yards out to seal the win for his side.

Next up for Harimau Malaya will be a semi-final clash against Group A winner Vietnam, with the first leg to take place on December 7.

Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi, Mahali Jasuli, Shukor Adan, Muslim Ahmad, Zubir Azmi, Azamuddin Akil, Gary Robbat (Hafiz Kamal 58’), Safiq Rahim, Amri Yahyah, Safee Sali (Indra Putra Mahayuddin 88’), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Abdul Manaf Mamat 90’).

Singapore: Hassan Sunny, Ismadi Mukhtar, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Shaiful Esah (Hafiz Abu Sujad 63’), Hariss Harun, Shahril Ishak, Fazrul Nawaz (Gabriel Quak 63’), Shahfiq Ghani (Amirul Adli 76’), Faris Ramli, Khairul Amri.

Thailand charge into semis with perfect record in Group B

Thailand finished off their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B campaign with a perfect record after downing Myanmar 2-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.

The War Elephants broke the deadlock in the 12th minute after patient build-up in the final third eventually saw the ball break to Sarawut Masuk, who laid it off to Tanaboon Kesarat for the BEC Tero Sasana man to send a rocket of a strike from 25 yards in off the bar.

Myanmar did have numerous chances to get back into the contest but Kyaw Ko Ko had a shot cleared off the line by Suttinun Phuk-hom, Kyi Lin saw his exquisite strike come back off the bar, while Kyaw Zayar Win, Min Min Thu and Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit were also wasteful in front of goal.

And in the end, the Thais went on to seal the in six minutes from time as Prakit Deeprom lined up a freekick on the edge of the box and curled a sublime effort beyond Thiha Sithu’s despairing dive.

Thailand are now through to the last four with a perfect record in the group stage for the second tournament in a row, and will now meet Group A runners-up Philippines in the semis.

Thailand: Chanin Sae-Eae, Artit Daosawang, Pravinwat Boonyong, Suttinun Phuk-hom, Chayapat Kitpongsritada (Peerapat Notechaiya 87’), Adul Lahso (Chainarong Tathong 52’), Tanaboon Kesarat, Sarawut Masuk, Sompong Soleb (Monkol Tossagri 79’), Prakit Deeprom, Kirati Keawsombat.

Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, David Htan, Aung Zaw, Zaw Min Tun, Sithu Aung, Win Min Htut, Min Min Thu (Chit Su Moe 85’), Kyi Lin, Kyaw Zayar Win (Than Paing 86’), Soe Min Oo (Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit 46’), Kyaw Ko Ko.

Vietnam pip Philippines to finish top of Group A

Vietnam booked their place in the semi-finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after finishing top of Group A with a 3-1 win over Philippines at the My Dinh National Stadium.

Although they needed only a draw to book their place in the last four, the hosts started Friday’s showing plenty of endeavour.

Just nine minutes in, they edged ahead when Ngo Hoang Thinh received possession 30 yards out and tried his luck with a powerful effort that slipped past Patrick Deyto into the back of the net

Vietnam then doubled their lead five minutes after halftime when Vu Minh Tuan produced a brilliant first touch to latch onto a long ball and accelerate past Daisuke Sato, before rifling a shot into the bottom corner.

The contest was then effectively over in the 58th minute when Pham Thanh Luong was left in space on the edge of the area, and proceeded to unleash a fantastic dipping shot that flew past Deyto at the near post.

Nonetheless, the Azkals did manage to grab a consolation less than a minute later when Jerry Lucena hit the byline and fired a cross to Paul Mulders, who met the ball with a deft finish into the far corner.

Still, Vietnam’s victory meant they were able to finish a point ahead of their opponents at the top of the table and will now meet the runners-up of Group B in the last four.

Meanwhile, Philippines will lock horns with the winners of Group B, which is likely to be a tough test against tournament favourites Thailand.

Vietnam: Tran Nguyen Manh, Que Ngoc Hai, Dinh Tien Thanh, Le Phuoc Tu, Nguyen Xuan Thanh, Nguyen Huy Hung, Ngo Hoang Thinh, Vu Minh Tuan (Nguyen Thanh Hien 90’), Nguyen Van Quyet, Pham Thanh Luong (Nguyen Van Bien 79’), Le Cong Vinh (Mac Hong Quan 82’).

Philippines: Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota, Amani Aguinaldo, Rob Gier, Daisuke Sato, Manny Ott (Chris Greatwich 87’), Jerry Lucena, Martin Steuble, Phil Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran (James Younghusband 68’), Mark Hartmann (Paul Mulders 46’).

Ten-man Indonesia thump Laos to sign off in style

Indonesia’s 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign came to an end on Friday but they signed off with a big win in Group A after thrashing Laos 5-1 at the Hang Day Stadium.

It took Garuda just eight minutes to open the scoring when teenage starlet Evan Dimas marked his first cap with a goal; latching onto Cristian Gonzales’ layoff and skipping past Keoviengpheth Lithideth on the edge of the area before blasting a terrific left-footed shot into the top corner.

Gonzales then turned provider again in the 20th minute for another debutant as he held up the ball well inside the box before playing a pass back to Ramdhani Lestaluhu, who made no mistake in placing a first-time shot past Seng Athit Somvang.

However, Indonesia were dealt a blow in the 28th minute when Supardi Nasir was sent off for a last-man foul on Vilayout Sayyabounsou, and Khampheng Sayavutthi coolly fired home from the spot to pull one back for the Laotians.

But five minutes after halftime, the Indonesians reclaimed their two-goal cushion when Evan embarked on a fantastic run down the left and burst past two defenders before playing the ball across the face of goal, leaving Ramdhani with a simple finish at the far post.

A fourth goal then arrived in the 82nd minute through substitute Zulham Zamrun, as the winger made a darting run to the back post to meet Muhammad Ridwan’s right-wing cross with an exquisite volley past a stranded Seng Athit.

And a minute from time, the rout was completed when Zulham raced onto Firman Utina’s searching ball before whipping in a dangerous low cross that Laos captain Ketsada Souksavanh could only stab into his own goal.

Despite ultimately missing out on a place in the semi-finals due to Vietnam’s 3-1 win over Philippines in the other game, Indonesia were at least able to bow out with some of their pride restored after disappointing displays in their opening two matches.

Indonesia: I Made Wirawan, Zulkifli Syukur, Victor Igbonefo, Achmad Jufriyanto, Supardi Nasir, Hariono (Firman Utina 84’), Manahati Lestusen, Ramdhani Lestaluhu (Muhammad Ridwan 56’), Evan Dimas, Boaz Solossa (Zulham Zamrun 67’), Cristian Gonzales.

Laos: Seng Athit Somvang, Bounthavy Sipasong, Ketsada Souksavanh, Saison Khounsamnan, Saynakhonevieng Phommapanya (Sitthideth Khantahavong 68’), Keoviengpheth Lithideth, Phoutdavy Phommasane (Paseuthsack Souliyavong 61’)Vilayout Sayyabounsou (Phoutthasay Khochalern 46’), Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Khonesavanh Sihavong, Khampheng Sayavutthi.

Stange wants Lions to be wary of ‘wounded’ Malaysia

Bernd Stange believes his Singapore side cannot afford complacency in their highly-anticipated 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup clash with bitter rivals Malaysia.

Currently second in Group B after picking up three points from their opening two games, the Lions only need a draw in Saturday’s highly-anticipated clash at the National Stadium to secure their place in the sem-finals, unless Myanmar somehow manage to defeat Thailand by three or more goals in the other game and have a better ‘goals scored’ tally.

But although his side appeared to be in pole position to join the Thais in advancing from the group, Stange is adamant they cannot take anything for granted.

“It’s a big clash tomorrow [Saturday] and I have respect for this Malaysia team,” he said.

“They are a wounded animal after the results in this tournament and that’s why this team is extremely dangerous.

“We have to be prepared.”

The Singaporeans were dealt a real blow in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Laos after Shahdan Sulaiman was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament, following a horrific injury that resulted in him fracturing his fibula and dislocating his ankle.

Apart from the classy playmaker, the Lions could also miss right-back Ismadi Mukhtar, who came off injured on Wednesday as well, along with suspended centre-back Baihakki Khaizan.

Still, Stange has backed his team to cope with the absences and give the fans what they are after – a derby victory over their neighbours.

“Baihakki and Shahdan are key players but they are out and we will have to replace both,” the German added.

“But we still have 20 players available and we will see how to manage that.

“It’s a miss to lose two experienced players but I think we are well prepared and we know what we have to do.

“It’s the first match in Singapore in a fully-packed stadium here and I’m excited. Hopefully, both teams can perform on a very good level to promote our game and to win the hearts of Singaporean football fans.”

Meanwhile, Malaysia boss Dollah Salleh has declared his side will be going all out to claim the win that will give them a chance of qualifying – even though he admits it will be far from easy.

“We desperately need a win to make sure we qualify, but I believe it won’t be easy,” he said.

“Still, we will give it our very best and try to give the Malaysian fans something to cheer about.”

Thailand out to extend perfect run at Myanmar’s expense

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang wants his side to finish their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B campaign with victory over Myanmar on Saturday evening.

Having claimed 2-1 and 3-2 wins in their opening two games over Singapore and Malaysia respectively, the War Elephants are already through to the semi-finals ahead of Saturday’s final match at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

On the other hand, Myanmar – with just one point to their name – will need to beat the Thais and hope for a favourable result in the other match between Singapore and Malaysia.

Although many expect Thailand to rest a few key players ahead of the semis, Kiatisuk insists their desire to land a first AFF crown since 2002 will ensure they do not take their foot off the pedal.

“We want to play our best in every match and aim to get the maximum points,” the legendary Thailand striker said, according to the competition’s official website.

“We respect every team but if we can maintain our standards, then we have a chance of winning the title.

“Nonetheless, I don’t want to put any extra pressure on my players.”

Kiatisuk’s sentiments were echoed by War Elephants centre-back Adisorn Promrak, who said: “Even though we have already qualified, the players are hungry to win and play our best for the Thai people.”

If Myanmar are to pull off a real upset on Saturday, coach Radojko Avramovic will need the likes of Kyaw Ko Ko and Kyi Lin to fire against an opposition defence that has not exactly been convincing so far in the tournament.

However, Avramovic claims that he has been satisfied with how his attackers have been doing so far, and it is at the back where he is concerned about.

“We must improve our defence,” the Serb said. “We cannot allow such easy goals like those we conceded [in the 4-2 loss] against Singapore.

“Our players need more international experience but they have to believe in themselves.

“We will try to give Thailand a good game.

“Against Singapore, we were punished for poor defending. The team tried their best [to come back] in the second half but it was already too late.

“I just hope that we continue to have that [fighting] attitude and we are now all playing for our supporters. They have been fantastic, even when we were 3-0 down [against Singapore].”

Miura calls on Vietnam to pip Azkals to top spot

Vietnam coach Toshiya Miura has confirmed his side will be going all out to finish top of 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group A by beating Philippines on Friday evening.

Philippines became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals after picking up victories in their opening two games, but the second-placed Vietnamese are currently favourites to join them from Group A.

With a three-point lead and a seven-goal advantage over Indonesia, Vietnam can qualify for the last four even with a defeat unless they lose to the Azkals by a big margin, while Garuda are also able to claim an emphatic victory in their game against Laos.

The runners-up of the group are likely to play tournament favourites Thailand, who are in pole position to qualify for the semis as winners of Group B, while Singapore and Malaysia – and Myanmar, to a lesser extent – are battling it out for second spot.

Nonetheless, Miura insists it is not fear for the Thais, but home advantage in the second leg of the semi-finals, that is the reason behind his desire to finish top of Group A.

“I am not so interested about avoiding Thailand,” he said.

“It’s more because if we can finish first then we get to play the second leg at home in Hanoi, and that will be an advantage.

“First, we must remain 100 per cent focused because there is so pressure on us, but not so much on Philippines.”

The Japanese tactician, who had spent his entire career in his homeland prior to taking charge of Vietnam, also confirmed he would not be tempted to rest any key players ahead of the knockout round.

“I expect a good game and for us to win the game,” Miura added.

“In my opinion, I fielded the best 11 players in our first and second game.

“It is a big tournament so of course I want to bring the best players to qualify for the semi-finals.”

On the other hand, Philippines will be forced into making a couple of changes after centre-back Juan Luis Guirado and forward Patrick Reichelt both picked up injuries in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Indonesia and had to be replaced.

While coach Thomas Dooley agreed with Miura that playing the second leg at home would be a plus, he did concede that he was tempted to give a number of key players a well-earned rest.

“Obviously, we would like to win the group stage so that we can have the advantage [of playing the second leg at home] in the semi-final,” he said. “But I would also like to rest a couple of the players.

“It is difficult – I will make a decision tomorrow [Friday] after speaking to a couple of the players about how they feel.

“I always like to start with the best team and right now that is what I am thinking of doing, but the final decision will be made tomorrow [Friday].”

Once regarded as minnows in Southeast Asia, Philippines are now preparing for a third consecutive appearance in the last four of the Suzuki Cup after progressing in 2010 and 2012, although they failed to advance further to the final on both occasions.