DESERVING WINNERS: Hosts give our boys a drubbing
MALAYSIA got off to a poor start in the Asean University Games (AUG) football competition when they were beaten 3-0 by hosts Laos in their opening Group B match at the Laos National Sports Complex Main Stadium yesterday.
Boosted by a vocal home crowd, Laos started with confidence and controlled much of the opening half with their fluid, short-passing game.
Laos striker Sitthideth Khanthavong came close to opening the scoring in the 29th minute when he broke free during a counter-attack, but failed to beat on-rushing Malaysia keeper Azman Afif Ahmad.
Azman was again tested two minutes later when he parried a powerful drive from Laos midfielder Manolom Phomsouvanh from just outside the penalty box.
Laos' persistence, however, paid off in the 41st minute when Azman could only divert a powerful free kick from Sousadakone Liepvisay into the path of the unmarked Sitthideth who calmly slotted home to give his side a 1-0 lead, going into the break.
Despite enjoying slightly more ball possession in the second-half, genuine chances for Malaysia were, however, few and far between.
Sitthideth had a goal disallowed for being offside in the 52nd minute and threatened again in the 60th when his effort from inside the box was tipped over by Azman.
Malaysia had a chance to equalise in the 66th minute when Mohd Shafiq Mokhtar laid on a perfectly weighted pass for Saiful Ridwan Selamat. However, his shot was saved by Laos keeper Sengathit Somvang.
Laos went on to notch their second goal when substitute Khounta Sivongthong powered the ball past Azman from the edge of the penalty box in the 83rd minute.
Some desperate defending by the Malaysians towards the end of the match saw Vietnamese referee Nguyen Trung Rien award a penalty to Laos in the 92nd minute from which Lembo Saysana calmly slotted home to make it 3-0.
National coach Azman Eusoff said his charges were caught off guard by the hosts' strategy.
"Laos were clearly the better team today (yesterday) and deserved to win. We can only look to do better in our next match which we will have to win if we want to make it to the semi-finals," said Azman.
"Their (Laos) strategy gave us no chance to settle down and once we were down a goal, we failed to find a way back into the match.
"We were weak defensively and our midfield and frontline failed to link up."
Malaysia will have to beat Singapore tomorrow and hope they (Singapore) lose to Laos in their next game on Saturday to stand any chance of making it to the semi-finals.
Group A, which is down to two teams after the late withdrawal of Vietnam, will see defending champions Thailand take on Myanmar on Saturday to determine the group winners.