Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Olympic squad get convincing win over Australian club in friendly

National Under-23 football team coach Ong Kim Swee has described the three-match tour of Australia as a success after watching his side take apart A–League’s Central Coast Mariners 4-1 in their final friendly yesterday.

Labuan–born striker Ahmad Hazwan Bakri was the hero for the Malaysian side, bagging a brace in the 48th and 60th minutes at the Mingara Athletics Track in Tumbi Umbi, New South Wales.

Much–maligned strikers Ahmad Fakri Saarani and A. Thamil Arasu also got on the scoresheet in the 13th and 71st minutes respectively.

The Mariners managed to score a consolation goal through midfielder Ben Jurman five minutes from the end.

Kim Swee’s boys had earlier opened their Australian tour with a 3-0 victory over Sydney FC last Tuesday before going down 1-0 to the Mariners a day later.

They took on the Mariners again yesterday after Newcastle Jets, who were originally slated to take on the Malaysians in the third friendly, were unable to fulfil their commitments.

Kim Swee said he was happy to end a memorable year with a positive display from the team.

“We had a good workout and the players showed tremendous improvement from the earlier clash against the Central Coast Mariners. The 4-1 win was our best performance in Australia,” said Kim Swee, who guided the Under-23 side to retain the SEA Games football gold medal in Indonesia last month.

“The Central Coast Mariners fielded an almost identical line-up to the one who defeated us 1-0 last week. But my boys showed that they have learnt their lessons well and we played to our strengths.

“The team played positive football against tougher opponents and I’m very happy to end 2011 on a winning note.”

The trip Down Under also solved the team’s striking woes as Kuala Lumpur striker Hazwan, who missed the SEA Games and most of the M-League action this year through injuries, netted four goals in three matches.

“Hazwan proved that he can be prolific in front of goal, while the other strikers – Fakri and Thamil – also scored in Australia,” said Kim Swee.

“I’m not saying it just to please my players, but Fakri’s much–improved performance and workrate were even praised by Central Coast Mariner’s head coach Graham Arnold, who had been Guus Hiddink’s assistant during his stint as the Socceroos’ head coach.”

The team will return today and will be given a two–week break before regrouping on Jan 3.
The Under-23 side will play a friendly against the Saudi Arabian Under-23 side on Jan 31 before meeting Bahrain in the Asian Zone Olympic final round qualifier on Feb 5.

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