KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia advanced to the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals in style with a 3-0 win over Myanmar in their final Group A match.
Goals from old war horses Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (26th minute) and Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak (48th and 88th) handed the Harimau Malaya a comfortable win at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil last night.
Malaysia finished second with nine points – behind group champions Vietnam who have 10 points after four matches – to book their berth in the final four.
Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe made three changes to his line-up from the previous match – a 0-2 loss to Vietnam last week – and rejigged his offensive 4-3-3 formation to a safer 4-4-1-1.
Goalkeeper Farizal Marlias finally made his appearance in place of the seasoned Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, with midfielder Muhammad Safawi Rasid replacing winger Akhyar Rashid and skipper Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak returning as forward Shahrel Fikri Fauzi is rested.
The match got off to a cagey start with both sides probing the defences for an opening in the first 10 minutes with no breakthrough.
The Harimau Malaya, cheered on by the capacity crowd, soon took charge with their neat short passing game, pinning Myanmar in their own half.
All the pressing finally paid dividends in the 26th minute when Mohamadou Sumareh’s acrobatic attempt from a Syahmi Safari cross hit the post only for striker Norshahrul to pounce on the rebound and tuck the ball home for Malaysia’s deserved lead.
Myanmar then doubled their effort to find the equaliser but resolute defending from the Malaysian backline led by centreback Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak and goalkeeper Farizal’s heroics denied Antoine Hey’s men from inflicting any damage.
Malaysia’s forays resulted in another goal in the 48th minute. A tireless Safawi, in one of his surging runs, was brought down in the box by Kyaw Soe Moe and Zaquan made no mistake from the spot.
The two-goal cushion brought swagger to Malaysia’s game as they started the second half confidently in search for more goals but were let down by poor finishing.
Myanmar, desperate to claw their way back, became more adventurous in their attacks but the Malaysian defence proved to be a tough nut to crack.
Cheng Hoe brought on Shahrel Fikri Fauzi in the 62nd minute for Norshahrul. The substitution injected more bite into the attack as two minutes before time, Zaquan deflected a Myanmar defender’s clearance into goal to complete the hosts’ emphatic win.