Pahang to meet debutants Global; Balestier set for AFC bow

Malaysia FA Cup winners Pahang were pitted in Group G for the 2015 AFC Cup following Thursday’s draw in Kuala Lumpur.

Tok Gajah, who also won the Malaysia Cup this past season, will definitely meet Hong Kong’s South China and debutants Global, whose appearance marks Philippines’ bow in the competition.

The final team in Group G is set to be Myanmar giants Yadanarbon, although they will be replaced by Yangon United should they qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League.

Over in Group F, Singapore Cup champions Balestier Khalsa and are likely to meet Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta’zim and Kitchee of Hong Kong, who are both bidding to qualify for the first-tier competition, along with Indian outfit East Bengal.

Persib Bandung, another Champions League hopeful, are in Group H and will face off against Myanmar’s Ayeyawady United, Laotian debutants Lao FC and Maldivian giants New Radiant.

Finally in Group E, S.League champions Warriors – who will be replaced by Tampines Rovers if they qualify for the ACL – will meet Persipura Jayapura of Indonesian, a side from India, as well as the winners of the playoff between Filipino outfit Ceres and Maziya.

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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.

Indonesia determined to finish off with win over Laos

Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl has called on his charges to ensure they finish off their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group A campaign on a high by beating Laos on Friday.

Garuda, who have picked up just one point from their opening two games, still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi-finals, although they would need to beat the Laotians by a four-goal margin and for second-placed Vietnam to lose by three goals to already-qualified Philippine – and then hope to have scored more goals than the Vietnamese.

Such a scenario is extremely unlikely given Group A hosts Vietnam are in the driving seat to finish second as they only need a point to do so, while the Indonesians are currently reeling from their worst-ever defeat at the tournament after being beaten 4-0 by the Azkals on Tuesday.

To add to Riedl’s woes, he will be without the services of a couple of players in Friday’s game at the Hang Day Stadium, but is hoping his team can ensure they do not finish the group stage without a victory to their names.

“We are looking forward to this match against my former employers Laos,” he said. “Hopefully, we can land a win so we don’t go home completely empty-handed.

“I would be happy to just win the match against Laos because we are not currently in a situation where we can think about [winning by] a high score.

“We have to win as [the morale in] our team is very down.

“We have two players out due to injuries – our striker Sergio van Dijk and our midfield player Imanuel Wanggai. They will not be on the list tomorrow [Friday], but the rest are okay.”

Riedl, who also confirmed – according to the tournament’s official website – that he will be parting ways with Indonesia after the tournament, went on to play down his side’s chances of progress further by claiming he did not believe Philippines would go on to beat Vietnam by a convincing margin.

“For the match between Philippines and Vietnam, I am expecting a close match with a close result,” the Austrian added.

“I don’t believe either one of the teams can win by a big margin.”

Meanwhile, Laos have little but pride to play for after becoming the only team so far to have been eliminated after two matches – following defeats to Philippines and Vietnam.

Like Riedl, Thim Xad boss David Booth has demanded that his players make sure they finish the group stage with something to show for their efforts.

“Both teams are in a very similar situation tomorrow [Friday],” he said.

“At this moment, we have no points and two losses and our goal difference is very poor, but we also don’t want to go home empty-handed.

“I think we proved in the last game [a 3-0 loss to Vietnam] if we have to defend, we can defend.

“We could probably have kept the game at 1-0, but we decided at 1-0 we might as well try to score.”

Vietnam on track for AFF last four after downing Laos

Vietnam remain on course to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup after moving second in Group A with a 3-0 victory over Laos.

Having seen his side throw away a lead twice in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Indonesia, Vietnam boss Toshiya Miura opted to make five alterations to his starting XI and restored golden boy Le Cong Vinh, who netted an absolute stunner at the weekend.

His changes appeared to have done the trick as the hosts took the lead three minutes before the half-hour mark after Vu Minh Tuan showed excellent determination to meet Le Tan Tai’s visionary through-ball, and managed to stab the ball into the bottom corner at full stretch.

But while many would have expected them to push on in search of more goals, the Vietnamese instead decided to adopt a conservative approach as they preferred to retain possession and welcome Thim Xad forward.

They did create a number of openings but their lacklustre approach resulted in some sloppy play in front of goal, as Nguyen Anh Duc, Minh Tuan and Nguyen Van Quyet all wasted good opportunities.

Nonetheless, they did manage to double their lead in the 82nd minute when Tan Tai ran onto Minh Tuan’s incisive pass and although his shot was saved by Seng Athit Somvang, Cong Vinh was perfectl positioned to convert the rebound with a simple tap-in.

And just two minutes later, they went on to wrap up the three points with a third goal as Nguyen Huy Hung planted a first-time finish into the back of the net, after Van Quyet had done well to nutmeg Bounthavy Sipasong and whip a cross into this path.

The result meant that Laos are the first time to be eliminated from the tournament, while the Vietnamese only need a draw in their final game against leaders Philippines to book their place in the semis.

Laos: Seng Athit Somvang, Bounthavy Sipasong, Ketsada Souksavanh, Ketsada Souksavanh, Saison Khounsamnan, Saynakhonevieng Phommapanya, Keoviengpheth Lithideth, Phoutdavy Phommasane, Vilayout Sayyabounsou (Phoutthasay Khochalern 84’), Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Khonesavanh Sihavong, Khampheng Sayavutthi.

Vietnam: Tran Nguyen Manh (Nguyen Thanh Binh 46’), Que Ngoc Hai, Dinh Tien Thanh, Le Phuoc Tu, Nguyen Van Bien, Vu Minh Tuan, Le Tan Tai, Nguyen Huy Hung, Vo Huy Toan (Pham Thanh Luong 74’), Nguyen Anh Duc (Nguyen Van Quyet 55’), Le Cong Vinh.

Vietnam boss Miura demands victory in Laos clash

Toshiya Miura has claimed his Vietnam side cannot afford anything less than a win in their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group A meeting with Laos on Tuesday evening.

The Vietnamese opened their campaign last Saturday in disappointing fashion after throwing away a lead twice to draw 2-2 with Indonesia, despite largely dominating proceedings at the My Dinh National Stadium.

They will be hoping for better luck against a Laos side that fell to a heavy 4-1 loss to Philippines in Saturday’s other match, and Miura admits his charges cannot afford to drop any more points if they are to qualify for the semi-finals.

“I am not that familiar with the Laos team but it certainly will not be an easy match for us,” he told Vietnam+.

“The first priority for us is to claim the three points, but after that, we also have to factor in the various aspects that could decide qualification, such as goal difference and number of goals scored.

“In the game against Indonesia, our opponents only had two really dangerous chances yet they managed to hit the back of the net twice.

“So in training, I have tried to get the players to be more focused during the game and have more communication.”

It certainly could have been a victory for Vietnam against Garuda had it not been for a costly error from goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh, who let a tame shot from Samsul Arif slip through his legs with just six minutes remaining for their opponents’ second equaliser.

Nonetheless, Miura refused to blame the Song Lam Nghe An custodian and insists he would not necessarily be dropped, although he will be forced into at least one change after left-back Nguyen Xuan Thanh was injured against the Indonesians.

“With regards to Manh, anyone can make mistakes,” the Japanese tactician added. “It is however important to do better in the future.

“However, in the case of Xuan Thanh, he picked up and injury and I will be forced to make a change to my starting XI.”

Meanwhile, Laos are already facing an uphill struggle to qualify following their heavy loss to the Azkals.

Nonetheless, Thim Xad boss David Booth claims his side are not giving up in their prospects just yet.

“I don’t think the players are necessarily under a lot of pressure,” he said.

“We realised our mistakes and the problems we had from the first game. We were still able to create chances so we hope to get ourselves back in shape and see what happens.

“The first game was very disappointing for us and we hope to have a stronger performance against Vietnam.

“We know it will be difficult but we hope to have a good game.”

Azkals fight back to down Laos in Suzuki Cup opener

Philippines came from a goal down to record a 4-1 win over Laos in their opening Group A game of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup on Saturday evening.

Khampheng Sayavutthi had fired Laos ahead at the My Dinh National Stadium with a delightful freekick in the 21st minute, but the Azkals pulled level five minutes before halftime through a Simone Rota header.

Right before halftime, Phil Younghusband nodded home Jerry Lucena’s cross to put Philippines ahead, before Patrick Reichelt came off the bench to wrap up the three points with a well-taken brace in the final 13 minutes.

Having reached the semi-finals in the previous two editions, Philippines entered Saturday’s clash looking to get their campaign off to a good start, especially with tough tests against Indonesia and Vietnam to come.

They certainly showed plenty of initiative from the first whistle and Younghusband had a couple of chances in the opening five minutes, screwing a shot wide before sending another effort straight at Soukthavy Soundala.

However, despite being the dominant side in the early exchanges, the Azkals found themselves behind in the 21st minute after Soukaphone Vongchiengkham had been fouled on the edge of the box by Juan Luis Guirado; Khampheng stepping up and curling a delightful freekick in off the post.

Philippines then thought they had equalised a minute after the half-hour mark as Lucena poked a shot towards the unguarded goal after Soukthavy had spilled Martin Steuble’s cross, but Ketsada Souksavanh raced back in time to clear just as the ball was about to cross the line.

Nonetheless, Thomas Dooley’s charges finally found the breakthrough in the 40th minute when Manny Ott swung a corner to the near post, where Simone Rota proceeded to send a glancing header into the far corner.

Philippines would have been forgiven for being content to head into the break level on the scoreboard but in first-half injury-time, they went on to take the lead when Jerry Lucena broke free down the left and floated an excellent cross to Younghusband, who made no mistake in guiding his header into the back of the net.

The Azkals continued to threaten in the second half and carved out their fair share of decent chances, but struggled to add to their tally as Younghusband, Mark Hartmann and Misagh Bahadoran were all guilty of being wasteful in front of goal.

Thim Xad, to their credit, were trying their best to get back into the contest and had a glorious opportunity four minutes after the hour mark when Soukaphone broke free down the left and fired the ball across the face of goal, but Khampheng was just unable to connect at full stretch with the goal gaping.

Aware that his side were likely to need a third goal to make sure of the win, Dooley introduced Reichelt for Hartmann moments later and it proved to be an inspired substitution in the 77th minute.

Receiving possession inside the attacking third, Younghusband did well to hold up the ball before lifting a lovely ball through to Reichelt, who advanced on goal before finishing past Soukthavy.

And two minutes from time, Philippines wrapped up an emphatic victory as Reichelt stabbed home from six yards after Younghusband picked him out again with a terrific cross with the outside of his foot, ensuring they got their campaign off to the best start possible.

Philippines: Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota (Kenshiro Daniels 81’), Amani Aguinaldo, Juan Luis Guirado, Daisuke Sato, Manny Ott, Jerry Lucena (James Younghusband 83’), Martin Steuble, Phil Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran, Mark Hartmann (Patrick Reichelt 66’).

Laos: Soukthavy Soundala, Saynakhonevieng Phommapanya, Ketsada Souksavanh, Saison Khounsamnan, Sengdao Inthilath (Bounthavy Sipasong 80’), Keoviengpheth Lithideth, Phoutdavy Phommasane (Phoutthasay Khochalern 77’), Vilayout Sayyabounsou, Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Khonesavanh Sihavong, Khampheng Sayavutthi.

2014 AFF Suzuki Cup: Key Players & Men To Watch

The 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup is only a day away and Football SEA picks out eight established stars who would just prove the difference in their teams’ bid for regional glory.

Kiatisuk Senamuang, Bambang Pamungkas, Lionel Lewis and Safee Sali – this are just some of the names that were etched in Southeast Asian football folklore following outstanding displays in past editions of the region’s premier international tournament.

Two years ago, Teerasil Dangda produced proved unstoppable in attack as he finished as the competition’s top scorer with six goals, although the likes of Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri ultimately earned the bigger prize after inspiring Singapore to a fourth crown.

The region’s best will once again congregate over the next month as the group stage takes place in Vietnam and Singapore, and here, we cast our eye on eight players who could have a huge say on where the Suzuki Cup ends up come December 20.

Indonesia: Achmad Jufriyanto, 27 – Defender (Persib Bandung)

The 2012 Suzuki Cup was a tournament for Indonesia to forget as they were booted out at the group stage, and a key factor in their demise was some uninspiring displays at the back by Wahyu Wijiastanto, Handi Ramdhan and Fachruddin Aryanto.

Although a ball has yet to be kicked, it is likely Garuda will not have the same problem this time around as coach Alfred Riedl has settled on a much steadier backline.

While Achmad Jufriyanto may not be the most-experienced player at international level with just ten caps to his name, he is rapidly establishing himself as a tough centre-back who reads the game well, and is coming off the back of a successful Indonesia Super League-winning season with Persib Bandung.

Laos: Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, 22 – Forward (Saraburi)

Laos showed they could cause the big guns a few problems back in last month’s qualifiers, when they played some brilliant football before ultimately being pipped to top spot by Myanmar after a final day 2-1 loss.

Although the likes of Khampheng Sayavutthi and Ketsada Souksavanh played important roles, Thim Xad’s star man was undoubtedly Soukaphone Vongchiengkham – who proved an unstoppable force in the attacking third.

Apart from being blessed with blistering speed and excellent technique, the 22-year-old also knows when to release the ball and when to go it on his own, and is capable of tearing apart defences with his skill and vision.

Malaysia: Shukor Adan, 35 – Defender (FELDA United)

Plenty of talk has surrounded Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh’s decision to plump for experience this Suzuki Cup, with many questioning if the likes of Shukor Adan and Indra Putra Mahayuddin can still cut it at the highest level.

To be fair, they have both had excellent years in the Malaysia Premier League with FELDA United and Shukor’s inclusion could turn out to be a masterstroke by the Harimau Malaya boss.

With Aidil Zafuan ruled out through injury, neither Muslim Ahmad nor Fadhli Shas have impressed in recent friendlies and the experienced Shukor could just be the answer to Malaysia’s centre-back problems with his experience and robust defending.

Myanmar: Kyaw Ko Ko, 21 – Forward (Yangon United)

Two years ago, the one Myanmar player that was the name on everyone’s lips was Kyi Lin, who showed glimpses of breath-taking talent despite his side missing out on the semi-finals.

However, he has had a wretched run with injuries since but his absence has not been felt as much by the White Angels largely due to a 21-year-old named Kyaw Ko Ko.

The Yangon United man proved his ability to perform on the big stage this year after six goals in the AFC Cup, and he is likely to be Myanmar’s focal point in attack for the next decade or so.

Philippines: Phil Younghusband, 27 – Forward (Loyola Meralco Sparks)

Still only 27, Phil Younghusband is already the all-time top scorer for Philippines with a phenomenal record of 40 goals in 66 caps since making his debut in 2006.

In recent times, the Loyola Meralco Sparks man has played in a variety of attacking roles but many still believe he does his best work when deployed as an out-and-out striker due to his clinical finishing and uncanny ability of making his way into the right positions.

Younghusband may only have netted twice in previous editions of the Suzuki Cup but they both came in crucial victories over Vietnam and Myanmar in 2010 and 2012 respectively, and Philippines fans will be hoping he emerges as the man of the moment once again this year.

Singapore: Hassan Sunny, 30 – Goalkeeper (Warriors FC)

It’s perhaps strange that we have plumped for a goalkeeper given Singapore boast plenty of seasoned campaigners in Amri, Shahril and Baihakki Khaizan, but make no mistake – the Lions’ fortunes at the Suzuki Cup will be heavily influenced by Hassan Sunny.

Winning the S.League title with Warriors this season and becoming the first custodian to win the competition’s Player of the Year award only served to emphasise how the 30-year-old is now Southeast Asia’s best goalkeeper.

And with the Lions defence looking shaky in recent friendlies, Hassan’s ability to singlehandedly keep opposition forwards at bay will be vital to his side’s chances.

Thailand: Chanathip Songkrasin, 21 – Midfielder (BEC Tero Sasana)

Missing famous names like Teerasil, Datsakorn Thonglao, Theerathon Bunmathan and Jakkapan Pornsai, it would have been easy to write off Thailand’s title prospects, yet the fact they are widely regarded as favourites is testament to the talent at Kiatisuk’s disposal.

A large crop of his 22-man squad were members of the gold-medal winning side at last year’s Southeast Asian Games and the team that finished fourth at the 17th Asian Games, but the one man that is looming as their most influential player is Chanathip Songkrasin.

With terrific dribbling ability, visionary passing and a good shot, the pint-sized attacking midfielder has a wide array of weapons to hurt opponents and he is also no stranger to the senior stage, having played for the Thais at the last Suzuki Cup.

Vietnam: Nguyen Van Quyet, 23 – Forward (Ha Noi T&T)

For too long, Vietnam have regularly turned to golden boy Le Cong Vinh as the answer to any attacking woes and even recently, plenty of attentions has been given to 22-year-old Mac Hong Quan, who was born and bred in the Czech Republic and was formerly on the books of Sparta Prague.

The one man that has quietly slipped under the radar has been Nguyen Van Quyet but those who have monitored his progress in the V.League 1, as well as this season’s AFC Cup, will be aware of the threat he can pose.

While he usually starts in a wide attacking position, Van Quyet’s tireless running and clever off-the-ball movement inevitably sees him take up dangerous positions in the box, where he is equally capable of delivering a killer pass or pulling the trigger himself.

Other key players to look out for: Firman Utina (Indonesia), Khampheng Sayavutthi (Laos), Amri Yahyah (Malaysia), Yan Aung Kyaw (Myanmar), Rob Gier (Philippines), Shahril Ishak (Singapore), Kawin Thamsatchanan (Thailand), Le Tan Tai (Vietnam)