AFF U18 Championship 2019: Late goal gives Australia 1-0 win over Malaysia in tightly-contested final

Malaysia Australia AFF u18 Championship

Australia defeated Malaysia 1-0 in the final of the AFF U18 Championship 2019 at the Thang Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Monday to lift a record-equalling fifth title.

Defending champions Malaysia, coached by former Australia international Brad Maloney, had given the Young Socceroos a run for their money in the final, but a 79th-minute winner from Lachlan Ricky Brook gave the Australians a narrow 1-0 win in the final.

Australia were the side that enjoyed most of the possession in the first half, but were severely lacking in creativity against a  well-disciplined Malaysian backline as proved by the shot on target statistics at the end of the first half — three each for either sides.

The closest they came to scoring was in the 11th minute when tournament’s joint-top scorer Dylan Ruiz-Diaz got behind the Malaysian defence and connected with a delightful cross from Marco Tilio in front of the goal. But his shot was straight at goalkeeper Sikh Izhan Nazrel.

There was also a brief scare in the 20th minute when Tilio himself got inside the Malaysian penalty box after exchanging a one-two with Ruiz-Diaz. However, a brilliant sliding tackle from centre-back Harith Haiqal Adam avoided any damages.

Malaysia’s efforts in the first half were largely restricted to speculative strikes including one from their key attacker Luqman Hakim, but Young Socceroos shot-stopper Kai Calderbank-Park was never really tested in the first 45 minutes.

Second half began with Ruiz-Diaz testing Malaysian goalkeeper Izhan with a free kick from the edge of the box, but after that, it was Malaysia’s turn to pile heavy pressure on the Australians.

56th minute saw Malaysia convert an Australian free kick into a counter attack as Luqman and Muhammad Atiq took on a single backtracking Australian defender. However, Luqman’s pass that would have sent Atiq on goal was wildly misdirected and the chance was gone.

At the hour mark, the young Harimau Malaya went the closest they could without scoring as Muhammad Firdaus’ curling effort from the edge of the box beat Socceroos custodian Calderbank-Park, but not the crossbar!

Luqman continued to be the livewire for the Malaysians and he tested Calderbank-Park again in the 69th minute with a shot from a tight angle. Malaysia were forced into a substitution in the 75th minute after an injury to their first-choice goalkeeper Izhan who was replaced by Firdaus Irman Fadhil.

One of the first duties of the substitute goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net when Australia scored the crucial goal four minutes later. Brook was played through on goal and the Adelaide United forward lifted the ball over Fadhil and into the back of the net to score the title-winning goal.

Malaysia tried their best to break open the Australian defence, but in vain.

Australia emerged as the ASEAN youth champions for the first time since 2016 and are now level with Thailand as the most successful side in the competition winning their fifth title. On the other hand, it was a second defeat in three consecutive final appearances for Malaysia who still had plenty of positives to take from the match.

Meanwhile, Indonesia secured third place in the tournament after defeating 2018 finalists Myanmar. Mochammad Supriadi scored a hattrick for Fakhri Husaini’s side while Beckham Putra also found the back of the net twice.