KUANTAN: Malaysia were the champions of the 41st edition of the Merdeka Cup football tournament after they defeated Myanmar 2-0 in the final at the Darul Makmur Stadium here tonight.
This is the 10th time they have clinched the title after having last won it in 2007, also defeating Myanmar 3-1 at the Shah Alam Stadium.
In tonight's final, Malaysia's Harimau Muda A (national Under-23) squad coached by Ong Kim Swee were all "adrenaline" as soon as referee Teetichai Nualjan from Thailand blew the starting whistle.
It was an electrifying atmosphere this final with almost 30,000 fans spurring the players on.
Midfielder Putera Nadher Amarhan almost put Malaysia ahead in the 6th minute but missed the goal by just inches.
The elusive opening goal finally came in the 29th minute when prolific striker Md Rozaimi Abdul Rahman slammed home a loose ball in front of the Myanmar goal mouth.
Myanmar keeper Pyaye Phyo Aung had failed to make a clean catch of a stinger fired by winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor from outside the box.
However, the Malaysians were not satisfied with the one goal advantage and kept pressuring Myanmar to increase the tally but the score stood till half-time.
Though rain fell midway through the second half, it did not dampen the spirits of Kim Swee's boys who mounted attack after attack on the Myanmar goal.
Just when everyone thought it would be a 1-0 victory for Malaysia, Putera Nadher found the net again in the 94th minute to make it a glorious victory for Malaysia's 56th Independence (Merdeka) anniversary.
Malaysia had a fine run in this edition, winning all their matches in the group stage.
They defeated Singapore 1-0, Myanmar 2-1 and Thailand 3-0.
As champions, the national squad receved the Merdeka Cup which was presented by FA of Malaysia deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah to team captain, Mohd Irfan Fazail.
Besides the trophy, they also took home the winners purse of US$50,000 (RM164,500) while Myanmar as runners-up were richer by US$20,000 (RM65,800).
And to make things all the more sweet, Wan Zack Haikal was named Man-of-the Match while Md Rozaimi was awarded the Golden Boot as the top scorer with three goals.
Earlier, Singapore had finished in third place after defeating Thailand 2-1. Singapore took home US$10,000 (RM32,900).