Australia lift AFF U-18 title with narrow 1-0 win over Malaysia

The Australian Under-18 football team celebrating their victory. (Twitter pic via @AFFPresse)

KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champions Malaysia lost 0-1 to four-time winners Australia in the final of the Asean Football Federation Under-18 Championship at Stadium Thong Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, tonight.

Midfielder Lachlan Ricky Brook’s strike in the middle of the second half was enough for The Joeys to notch their fifth title, after having emerged champions in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2016.

Today’s win is also sweet revenge for Australia, who were upset by Malaysia 3-0 in their Group B match on Aug 13.

In today’s match, which was telecast live on Astro Arena, Australia clearly dominated the first half with several dangerous attempts at goal but the Malaysian defence stood firm to keep the score at 0-0 at the interval.

In the second half, the Malaysians changed their game plan to mount numerous attacks on their opponents’ goalmouth.

Brad Maloney’s boys almost took the lead but a lob by midfielder Muhammad Firdaus Khaironnisam from outside the penalty box in the 59th minute struck the crossbar although Australian goalkeeper Kai James Calderback-Park was a beaten man.

A defensive lapse by the Malaysians proved fatal when Lachlan Ricky scored in the 79th minute by stabbing in a pass from Louis Joseph D’Arrigo.

Defender Kristian Popovic almost increased Australia’s lead in injury time but his attempt from inside the penalty box hit the post, and the score remained at 1-0 until the final whistle.

In an earlier match, 2013 champions Indonesia beat two-time champions Myanmar 5-0 in the third-fourth placing playoff at the same venue.