Malaysia U-23 first to reach semis


Malaysia Under-23 became the first team to reach the semi-finals of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup when they defeated Sri Lanka national team 2-0 in their last group match at the Sylhet District Stadium on Saturday.
The loss put some extra pressure on Sri Lanka before they face hosts Bangladesh in their crucial last Group A match on February 2 in Dhaka as they now have to beat the home side to reach to the semi-finals.
The goal difference from the Saturday’s match gives the other team of the group, Bangladesh, some extra advantage, as the home side now only need a point from Sri Lanka to progress to the last four as  the Group A runners-up.
Even though the situation is in favour of the hosts, Malaysian coach Mohammad Rajip Simail put Sri Lanka ahead of Bangladesh when he was asked to compare his two group opponents.
‘I think Sri Lanka were the tougher opponent,’ Ismail said, who admitted that his side had some difficulty to face an unknown opponent like Sri Lanka.
‘Their defense-line was very compact and they didn’t give us any room in the first half.’
Malaysia, who had initiated many scoring opportunities within the first 30 minutes against Bangladesh, failed to repeat that against Sri Lanka in the first half.
Lankan goalkeeper Sujan Perera produced a stunning save to deny Mohammad Ridzuan’s low-header from inside the box in the 36th minute with a neat cross from Syahrul Azwari from the left.
Sri Lanka were denied by the cross bar in the 41st minute when their free-kick specialist N Rowshan saw his curling attempt from 30-yard out hit the woodwork.
Malaysia took the lead in the added time of the first half with a penalty from Syahrul Azwari after Lankan defender S Madushan handled the ball inside the penalty box and the referee awarded the spot kick for Malaysia.
Malaysian number 10 Muhammad Ridzuan doubled the lead in the hour mark when Adam Nor took a corner from the right flank  and Mohamad Syawal headed down to make the path for Ridzuan, who flicked the ball into the net.
Malaysian forward Nor was denied by the woodwork three minutes later when his 30-yard attempt beat the Lankan keeper before hitting the goal post.
After the loss Sri Lanka’s Serbian coach Nikola Kavazovic said they have little chance of reaching the semi-finals.
‘They (Bangladesh) are in better position to go to the semi-finals,’ Kavazovic said.
‘Even if we give our best effort they will move to the semi-finals with a draw. So they are in better position than us.’
Kavazovic said that he will give a full day rest to his charges today as they have to play the second match in less than two days.
‘We have to play two games in three days in two venues and to recover is really impossible,’ he said.
‘This is not normal. It only happens in Asia.’
Kavazovic will start thinking about Bangladesh from today having known his counterparts well after playing two friendly matches just three months before.
‘I will think about Bangladesh from tomorrow morning,’ said the Lankan coach.
‘We know each other very well. There is no secret.’
Source: New Age


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