Better organised and decidedly more creative, Thailand outplayed Myanmar 2-0 in the final of the 2013 Mekong Region Youth Football Tournament for the BIDC Cup at the Olympic Stadium yesterday.
A sixth-minute stunner from midfielder Wanit Jaisaen, whose long ranger brushed the inside of the cross bar before entering the net, gave Thailand an early lead.
A timely substitution late in the second session helped Thailand double that lead as Chotinan Veerapatarapong was at the right place at the right time to nod in following a goal mouth melee, and that was his first touch after getting on to the pitch.
Myanmar tried desperately hard in the last 20 minutes but were a tad unlucky as Shine Thura’s angular shot was parried by Thai goalkeeper Tossaporn Srirueng while Nyein Chan Aung’s drive hit an upright.
The Myanmar camp had one good shout for a penalty when Than Paing was pushed to the ground inside the box by two Thai defenders but referee Thong Chanketya was not convinced that the action deserved a penalty.
“That is our level. We are a very young team. Thailand are better and stronger. We didn’t play well at all in the first half. Second half was much better, we created chances but could not convert them,” Myanmar coach Gerd Friedrich Horst told the <i>Post</i>.
Thailand coach Pairoj Bovonwatanadilok said the side was happy to avenge the defeat by Myanmar in the previous edition.
“The players hadn’t had much time training together. The team was put together at the end of the league season. But I am happy they combined very well,” he said.
On the way to the final, however, Thailand survived a scare of sorts when Cambodia stretched them to their limits.
The hosts suffered a 112th minute hammer blow after a heroic late equaliser by defender Rous Samoeun which had sent Friday’s semi-final into extra time.
A relatively turgid first half was punctuated only by an early chance which came off the post for Cambodia as well as the bizarre sight of two pass backs to defence for either side hitting the corner flags and staying in play, one remarkably from a throw on.
It wasn’t until the 75th minute that the tie sprang to life, with Thailand’s Jirawut Saranan escaping the offside trap to poach a goal from some calamitous defending.
Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon made his now customary tactical manoeuvre of introducing supersub Chan Vathanaka to help breathe some life into his squad. The almost completely partisan crowd rose to the occasion, willing on their team’s advances up the field in search of a leveller.
And they were richly rewarded as from seemingly nowhere, Rous Samoeun, Boeung Ket’s winger turned left back by coach Lee, waltzed through numerous challenges before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the top corner.
The game was finally settled in the second session of extra time as Thailand’s Anon Sanmand was given time at the edge of the box to crack a stunning drive into the roof of the net, as the stands were silenced.
In Friday’s other semi-final, Shine Thura’s goal midway through the first half was enough to put Myanmar into the final at the expense of Malaysia, even though the victors had defender Aung Hein Soe Oo sent off in the 52nd minute.
The awards ceremony that followed the close of play last night saw the Thai team collect a cheque for $20,000, while runners-up Myanmar went home with $10,000. There was no play-off for third place.
The Player of the Tournament was named as Thailand playmaker Jirawut Saranon, while his team-mate Tossaporn Srirueng took best goalkeeper award.
Top scorer was Laos’s Khonesavanh Sihavong on three goals. All three players received $1,000.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAN RILEY