Thursday, 10 November 2011

Super sub Izzaq Faris help Malaysia edge Thailand in SEA Games

Three days ago, Izzaq Faris Ramlan was down with food poisoning but, yesterday, the lanky striker gave fancied Thailand the runs when he scored a late winner in Malaysia’s 2-1 triumph in their Group A football match at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan yesterday.

Skipper Baddrol Bakhtiar had put defending champions Malaysia ahead in the 25th minute but a stubborn 10-man Thailand drew level through substitute Natarid Thammroddodpon in the 76th.

Just when the game looked headed for a draw substitute Izzaq scored the winner from the top of the box beating Thai goalkeeper Weerawut Kayem in the 85th minute. It was just reward for a dominant display which should have seen Malaysia win by a bigger margin.

Their profligacy in front of goal spared Thailand a hiding. But it was the second time in consecutive Games that Malaysia had put the skids on Thailand’s title aspirations with a late goal.

Now, Malaysia have an edge in the battle for a semi-final berth from the Group of Death which also has Singapore, Cambodia and hosts Indonesia, while Thailand have a whole lot of running to do to keep up the chase.

“I thought I wouldn’t be playing because I was recovering from food poisoning. I feel much better now with the goal under my name and that too the winner against Thailand,” said Izzaq.

The Thais saw their game plan go awry when coach Parapol Pongpanich used up all three substitutions by the 70th minute. He was reduced to 10 men when midfielder Sarach Yooyen was stretchered off in the 75th minute. Yet, the Thais scored the equaliser a minute later through Natarid.

But Thailand could not hold off the relentless pressure applied by the Malaysians and their defence finally caved in for the second time when Izzaq found the net.

It was a more positive approach by the Malaysians compared to their insipid performance against Singapore, which ended in a goalless draw in the opening match on Monday.

This time, they showed why they are the defending champions.

Coach Ong Kim Swee made four changes, opting for 19-year-old Mohd Nazmi Faiz and Mohd Irfan Fazail over seasoned campaigners K. Gurusamy and Abdul Shukur Jusoh in the engine room. There was certainly more spark in their offensive play as they attacked with panache.

Kim Swee also switched players around, pushing Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim up front with Baddrol, Mahalli Jasuli to right-back and Mohd Fandi Othman to left-midfield. Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria also came in for Ahmad Fakri Saarani in right midfield.

The new strategy worked well with the Malaysians having the Thais pegged for most of the game. It would have been a rout if only the Malaysians had kept their composure in front of goal.

The wayward forwards missed half a dozen clear chances as Malaysia dominated their rivals.

A delighted Kim Swee said it should have been all over in the first-half.

“We should have been up by two or three goals but we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure when Thailand equalised in the second-half. In the end, my boys showed character and deserved the win.

“I must also say that 17-year-old Mohd Nazmi Faiz did well in midfield and played like a pro. He was taken off with a knock but we hope it is not a bad injury,” said Kim Swee.

Thai coach Parapol offered no excuse for their defeat and accepted that they had lost to a better team. However, he said that some of the players had been affected by the devastating floods in Thailand.

“The homes of some players, including skipper Ronnachai Rangsiyo, were hit by the floods in Bangkok. But this is no excuse for the way we lost the match,” said Parapol.

MALAYSIA: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mahalii Jasuli, Mohd Fadhli Shas, Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar, Mohd Irfan Fazail (Ahmad Fakri Saarani), Baddrol Bakhtiar, Mohd Fandi Othman, Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria (Izzaq Faris Ramlan), Muhd Nazmi Faiz (K. Gurusamy), Mohd Muslim Ahmad.

THAILAND: Weerawut Kayem, Adisak Krisom (Attapong Nooprom), Chalermsak Kaesooktae (Isarapong Lilakorn), Sarach Yooyen, Ronnachai Rangsiyo, Kroekrit Thawikan, Phonlawut Donchui (Natarid Thammroddodpon), Sutjarit Jantakol, Pokklaw A-Nan, Ukrit Wongmeena, Komkrit Cumsokcheak.

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