KUANTAN: The Malaysian Under-23 side will take on Myanmar in the final of the Merdeka Tournament on Saturday.
Having already qualified for the final on Monday, the Malaysian completed the four-team group fixtures in style with a convincing 3-0 win over Thailand at the Darul Makmur Stadium Wednesday night.
Striker Rozaimi Abdul Rahman fired a brace in the 28th and 82nd minute after midfielder Mohd Nasir Basharuddin opened the scoring in the 12th minute.
Myanmar registered their first win of the tournament when they downed winless Singapore 2-0 at the Temerloh Stadium to pip Thailand to a place in the final. Both finished tied on four points but Myanmar finished second on a better goal difference.
Kyaw Ko Ko (15th) and Soe Kyaw Kwaw (90th) scored for Myanmar.
Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee made a number of changes against Thailand. Surprisingly, it did not affect their performance at all. Only four regulars – winger D. Saarvindran, goalkeeper Mohd Izham Tarmizi, leftback Mohd Zubir Azmi and centreback Mohd Fadhli Shas – were fielded with the rest being fringe players.
The move paid off with the fringe players eager to prove themselves.
It took only 12 minutes for the Malaysians to break down the Thai defence, which badly missed the services of suspended skipper Mahamasabri Awaebuesa. And it was Nasir who broke the deadlock, firing in a low shot from outside the box to beat Thailand goalkeeper Abeefaesan Ya.
Rozaimi was the next to go into the goal-scoring act with a simple tap-in in the 28th minute.
But to their credit, Thailand, who needed just a draw to reach the final, never gave up. The War Elephants came close to equalising from a fast counter attack but goalkeeper Mohd Izham Tarmizi was alert enough to palm away Pinyo Inpinit’s low shot in the 40th minute.
Eight minutes before the end, Rozaimi made it 3-0 when his shot from the edge of the box beat Abeefaesan all the way.