SEA Games 2011: Malaysia 2, Thailand 1 – There’s Always A Goal In Baddrol

Just when the observers, casual and non-casual (a.k.a. spies), media and media puppets alike, thought they could read into Ong Kim Swee’s mind, they have found themselves dead wrong. They thought they have Malaysia’s tactics in their pockets: another 4-4-2 where the defenders will defend, the midfielders will play in the middle of the park and a pair of strikers will be thrown up front.

But Ong Kim Swee, had proven yet again, that he is a complicated man.

If you are one of Malaysia’s haters reading this blog, trying to find out what will be Kim Swee’s next plan, allow me to disappoint you: I have absolutely no way of knowing that. Trust me, you would have no way of knowing even if you are a die-hard enthusiast who followed every match played by Kim Swee’s charges.

When rumours came in that Kim Swee will play 4-5-1, it’s natural and therefore logical that the ‘1’, will be a targetman: Izzaq Faris Ramlan. Then the team roster was revealed and lo and behold: Wan Zaharulnizam a.k.a. “Kecik” is suddenly a ‘1 of 2’: the other being Kim Swee’s most-prolific charge to-date: teenager Syahrul Azwari. Both Zaharulnizam and Azwari played in the middle of the park against Singapore. No starting roles for forwards Thamil Arasu and Izzaq Faris.

And to much of the Fakiris (Ahmad Fakri Saarani’s almost cult-ish fanboys: as ‘Beliebers’ is to Justin Bieber. To them Ahmad Fakri Saarani can do no wrong.) disappointment, our most capped and experienced Tiger would not start this time around.

One would think with the addition of Kuala Lumpur’s Yong Kuong Yong to the squad, that he will play some sort of part sooner or later. But to much of everybody’s shock: 17-year old Harimau Muda B’s Nazmi Faiz gets the start, in this match against ASEAN football powerhouse Thailand. Natural defensive midfielder Gurusamy was also benched in place of Mahali Jasuli: the veteran-at-22 right back.

Classic Kim Swee.

Before anybody calls him a reckless gambler, kindly take note that not one of the starters were picking up their first cap. Not one of them also, were last minute call-up after a friendly with a Liga Super club.

With all of these changes, Malaysia knocked the door first when a quick counter attack saw Baddrol Bakhtiar releasing Syahrul Azwari with a through ball, only for Azwari, under pressure from a defender, to poke the ball weakly to the Thai goalkeeper.

Opportunity #1 – Azwari, assist – Baddrol.

Then the Thais took their turn to say “sawadee kap“, with a 12th minute freekick, parried away by Khairul Fahmi before saving the subsequent shot.

Malaysia’s first goal came in the 25th minute, when captain Baddrol ran diagonally from deep to receive a looping pass from the left flank, and then smashing the ball home. Ironic, since two of our forwards were already in the centre, unmarked and ready to receive a cross. Whichever options Baddrol were evaluating in that nanosecond before he scored, the one that he took proved to be the correct one.

Goal #1 – Baddrol, assist – Asra.

Baddrol threatened again with a lob over the flat Thai backline to find Azwari, only for the 18-year old to wait for three Thai defenders to catch up to him, and then took the ball away from him: all while a free Zaharulnizam was watching nearby.

Opportunity #2 – Azwari, assist – Baddrol.

In the 33rd minute, a freekick resulted in the Thais hitting Malaysia’s left post from a free header, with Khairul Fahmi already beaten. 10 minutes later, Irfan Fazail found himself unmarked but he took his header too quickly and it went wide off the right post.

Opportunity #3 – Irfan.

The Tigers resumed their hunt in the second half, and in the 60th minute Wan Zaharulnizam unleashed a shot from outside the box that hit the Thais left post. He again threatened, this time from within the box, but with two Thai defenders in front of him, he let go a weak try.

Opportunity #4 & 5 – Zaharulnizam.

While the Thais could not find a way into the Malaysian penalty area, the Tigers continued their hunt. Substitute Gurusamy diligently robbed a ball from the Thais and released Syahrul Azwari one-on-one with the goalkeeper, only for Azwari to cross to the single Thai defender left, when Gurusamy was available.

Opportunity #6 – Azwari, assist – Gurusamy.

Then it was Baddrol’s turn to rob the ball from the Thais midfield but under pressure from two defenders, his cross was easily cleared.

Opportunity #7 – Baddrol.

Suddenly in the 78th minute, Malaysia’s resilient defence was breached at last. The Thais went in from the left flank, and then FIVE Malaysian players went on a ball-watching holiday just to make sure Khairul Fahmi worked haplessly alone and defeated by a Thai shot, unleashed almost exactly from the penalty spot. How the Thais were allowed to arrive at the penalty spot by five Malaysian players remained a mystery to this very minute. I don’t think it’s black magic.

Alas, Ahmad Fakri Saarani was given the chance to show his silky skills. He did just that, hopping in between two Thai defenders and then letting a thunderous shot… to the side-netting.

Opportunity #8 – Fakri.

Thankfully, the self-pitiful melodrama was not allowed to continue.

Izzaq Faris Ramlan, let loose by YET another of Baddrol’s through pass, unleashed a booming shot that took even him off-balance, and stopped only by the Thais goal net. It was on the 85th minute.

Goal #2 – Izzaq, assist – Baddrol.

The cameras quickly zoomed on Izzaq, and he duly obliged by celebrating his beautiful goal with a flying aeroplane impression. All of his colleagues surrounded him, and congratulated him.

But on this day, on the 9th of November 2011, the casual, and non-casual observers, the media, and media puppets alike, will know one fact:

Baddrol bin Bakthiar, the oft-criticized Kedah midfield maestro, is back.

In celebrating the heroes of the 2010 AFF Cup, we need to remember that there were players on the sidelines during that tournament, who have also contributed to the success of the Malaysian team in the past: in tournaments such as the SEA Games and Pestabola Merdeka.

Their form? Temporary. Their class, permanent.

Winner in the 2009 SEA Games. Injured before the 2010 AFF Cup.


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