AFC U-23 Championship: Malaysia’s brave run ended by Korea

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Malaysia’s fairytale run at the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship came to an end on Saturday as they were beaten 2-1 by Korea Republic.

In a stunning start to the quarter-final tie at the Kunshan Stadium, the South Koreans broke the deadlock inside the opening 15 seconds.

Reacting quickest to his own flick-on header, Cho Jae-wan unleashed a stunning half-volley from an acute angle that dipped over Haziq Nadzli before going in off the post.

It spelled trouble for Malaysia against their more-illustrious opponents but, remarkably, they gave it a real go and more than matched the South Koreans.

And, seven minutes after the hour mark, the Malaysians pulled level when Safawi Rasid dinked a neat cross into the box, where it was met by N. Thanabalan with a diving header past Kang Hyeon-mu.

At this stage, the impossible seemed within reach as Ong Kim Swee’s young charges dared to dream, but Korea Republic were also threatening.

Some determined defending from Malaysia was required, while goalkeeper Haziq produced an outstanding double save in the 76th minute; the second to deny Lee Keun-ho from point-blank range.

But, in the end, it was not to be for Malaysia as the South Koreans netted the winner with five minutes remaining; Han Seung-gyu playing a one-two with Lee on the edge of the box before holding off Dominic Tan and rounding Haziq to score.

Korea Republic will now meet Qatar in the semi-finals as they look reach the final of the AFC U-23 Championship for the second consecutive edition.

KOREA REPUBLIC: Kang Hyeon-mu, Park Jae-woo, Lee Sang-min, Hwang Hyun-soo, Lee Gun, Choe Jae-hoon (Cho Yu-min 90+2’), Jang Yun-ho, Kim Moon-hwan, Han Seung-gyu (Go Myeong-seok 88’), Cho Jae-wan (Cho Young-wook 71’), Lee Keun-ho.

MALAYSIA: Haziq Nadzli, Dominic Tan, Irfan Zakaria, Adam Nor Azlin, Matthew Davies, Danial Amier (Syamer Kutty Abba 83’), Nor Azam Azih, Syazwan Andik, Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid (Hadi Fayyadh 67’), Akif Syahiran (N. Thanabalan 59’).