Laos 0 Myanmar 0
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Yangon: Myanmar sealed their place in the Final Round of the AFF Suzuki Cup after finishing top of the Qualification Round group following a goalless draw with Laos at the Youth Training Centre on Saturday.
The home side had won all three of their previous matches in the qualifying competition against Brunei, Timor Leste and Cambodia and they went into the match against the Laotians knowing that they only had to avoid defeat by two goals or more to secure their passage into the next round.
Laos were more in need of a win as they had to beat the hosts to boost their own chances of qualification but they closest they went to breaking the deadlock were attempts by Soukaphone Vongchiengkham and Khampheng Sayavutthi in the second half that forced good saves out of Myanmar goalkeeper Thiha Si Thu.
Myanmar’s first-place finish means that they will travel next month to Bangkok where they will be competing in Group A against Vietnam, Philippines and hosts Thailand.
Laos had to wait on the result of Saturday’s later game between Timor Leste and Brunei to discover if they had finished second in the qualifiers and earned a spot in Group B in Kuala Lumpur alongside Indonesia, Singapore and defending champions Malaysia.
The match kicked off in scorching afternoon conditions and just two minutes into the game, a cross from the right by David Htun was only poorly cleared and fell to Yan Aung Kyaw 12 metres from goal. However, he hesitated and saw his attempt blocked as the Laos defence quickly closed down on him
There were few real genuine chances until midway through the half when Aung Kyaw’s excellent through pass split the Laos defence and released Kyi Lin who surged clear but lacked conviction in his shot which was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Sengphachan Bounthisanh.
In the 26th minute, a cross from the left picked out an unmarked Khin Maung Lwin who failed to catch his volley cleanly and saw it blocked on the line by a defender.
Five minutes before the break, a corner from the right by Thein Than Win found Aung Kyaw in the box but his backward header went just wide of the far post.
Laos were restricted to shots from distance in the opening half with their best effort falling to Phatthana Syvilay just before half-time when he found himself in plenty of space to the right of the Myanmar box but scooped his attempt well over the crossbar.
But the visiting side had a great opportunity to take the lead eight minutes after the break when the ball was played through to Soukaphone, who advanced towards the box before unleashing a fierce low drive that Thiha Si Thu did well to parry to safety.
Nyi Nyi Min came on as a substitute for his first appearance in the tournament and the Myanmar winger went close to breaking the deadlock in the 74th minute with a lob from the right that nearly caught out Sengphachan, who dived to his right to claw the ball away.
Substitute Vilayout Sayyabounsou did have the ball in the Myanmar net with 10 minutes left only to see his effort disallowed for offside.
In the final minute, Soukaphone had an excellent opportunity with a free-kick 20 metres from goal that he put wide and Khampheng i then got away a shot in stoppage time that forced an excellent finger-tip save from Si Thu.