Malaysia secure draw to qualify for U-16 Championship



Vientiane: Malaysia came from behind to draw 1-1 with Laos and qualify for next year’s AFC U-16 Championship in India by topping a closely contested Group G.

Following earlier wins against Northern Mariana Islands, Timor-Leste and the Philippines, Malaysia went into the game knowing that anything but a defeat would confirm their passage through to the finals.

However, it was Laos, who could themselves have sealed first place in the group with a win, that were to draw first blood when they went ahead shortly before the break courtesy of Boualapha Chaleunsouk’s goal.

It was not to be for Laos though, as, amid high drama, substitute Azrin Azahari struck with only a minute gone in the second half to ultimately seal a vital point for the Malaysians and condemn the valiant Laotians to a second-placed finish.

In the day’s earlier game, the Philippines ensured they exited the qualifiers on a high thanks to a commanding 9-2 win over Northern Mariana Islands.

A hat-trick apiece from forward Mariano Suba Jr. and midfielder Fidel Tacardon laid the foundations for the victory in a game which ensured the Phillippines claimed fourth spot in the five-team group.

Kier Napolitano, Kyle Ronquillo and Jelani Borbon were also on target for Jose Maria Aberasturi’s side, while Anthony Fruit and Sunjoon Tenorio found the net for rock bottom Northern Mariana Islands – their first goals of the qualifiers.

Eleven group winners and four best second-placed teams will join India in next year’s finals, with the tournament hosts receiving an automatic qualification.

Should India finish top of their qualifying group or among the four best second-placed teams, the fifth best second-placed nation will qualify for the final competition.