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Malaysia progress into next phase despite defeat

BANGKOK, January 16 (Asean Football Championship) - Despite going down 1-0 to Thailand and needing the Philippines to hold Myanmar to a shock goalless draw to advance to advance to the semi-finals of the Asean Football Championship, Malaysia coach Norizan Bakar was full of praise for the performance of his players on Tuesday.

'Again the players played their hearts out and although we didn't win our final match I think it was the best we performed,' said Norizan in the post-match press conference after seeing his side go down to a Sarayoot Chaikamdee header two minutes into the second half.

'I think this was the best we played of all the three matches,' continued the Malaysian coach.

'Although we gave too much space to the Thais at the start of the first half we started playing better in the second and regardless of the result we are through to the semis and that is the important thing.'

The defeat to the three-time champions could so easily have seen Malaysia miss out on the knockout phase of the competition for only the second time since the tournament's inception in 1996.

However, at the same time Norizan's side were doing battle with the Thais at the Supachalasai Stadium, Myanmar were struggling to find a way past a resolute Philippines side in a match played simultaneously at the Army Stadium.

The failure of Myanmar to defeat a Philippines side that had been breached four times by both Malaysia and Thailand meant that the Malaysians finished runners-up behind the Group A hosts.

Despite the fate of Malaysia, and indeed Thailand, possibly determined by events across Bangkok, Norizan insisted that he was focusing solely on the game at the Supachalasai.

'I wasn't thinking about the Myanmar match and I was just concentrating on the Thailand game. I never knew the result until about a minute after our game had finished,' he said.

Meanwhile, Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin admitted that his side was perhaps burdened with the pressure of being tagged the tournament favourites.

'People often say we are the number one in the Asean region and that we shouldn't lose but the games are very difficult,' Chanvit said.

'Every time there is also pressure on our team and some of the players cannot perform under pressure.

'However, we knew we couldn't afford to lose today,' said Chanvit, whose side finished top of the table with seven points, three ahead of Malaysia and four ahead of a Myanmar side who let qualification to the semi-finals for only the second time slip through their fingers.