Friday, December 24, 2010
Between The Sticks
South East Asia is blessed with two promising goalkeepers, Kawin Thammasatchanan (Muang Thong United) and Megia Kurnia (Arema). Neither has made an impact on the AFF Cup for different reasons. Kawin was forced to pull out through injury while Megia plays second fiddle to Markus Horison in the Indonesia goal.
Their absence, and Malaysia's run to the final, has allowed another young keeper to grab the limelight in the region. Khairul Fahmi Che Mat plays for Kelantan in the Malaysia Super League and in 2010 helped them win the historic Malaysia Cup as well as being awarded the Young Player of the Year and the Best Goalkeeper of the Year.
Now he stands 180 minutes away from being crowned champion of ASEAN.
Away to Vietnam, in the cauldron like My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi, he was unflappable, his handling precise. Everything stuck to him and while plenty of chances were straight at him he still needed to complete the formality of getting the ball out of harm's way and he did this methodically and efficiently.
His handling could give Malaysia an advantage over Indonesia. Markus Horison, for all his agility and shot stopping, has a tendency at times to flap at the ball or to punch when he should be catching or to parry when he should be catching. If I've noticed it be sure Malaysian coach Rajagobal will have done and instructed his strikers to be following up.
At the other end Khairul and his defenders have shown against Thailand and Vietnam (twice) what a solid, hard working unit they are. They can expect a torrid time against Oktavianus, if fit, and Christian Gonzalez over the two legs but Khairul has shown this year he is up to the task.
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