There are certain moments in life which will become forever etched in your memory. These are typically described as, "Where were you when..." moments.
Often these moments are connected with some sort of tragedy, especially anything to do with a celebrity death. But occasionally they are associated with triumph, such as when Secretariat won the Belmont and clinched the Triple Crown.
It's a tragic irony that for at least one such moment, possibly the most glorious event to have ever taken place in the history of the world (well, yes, OK that may be a slight exaggeration), the answer for many people will be: "At home, in bed, fast asleep."
What I am talking about, of course, is the magnificent goal scored by Amri Yahyah of Malaysia during the 45th minute of his teams' valiant struggle against Manchester United.
That shot is something I can barely do justice in describing. The best advice I can offer is to search YouTube for a replay, because it was a goal that just has to be seen to be believed.
Yahya intercepted an airborne football and controlled it expertly, flicking the ball so rapidly off his boot in a graceful overhead arc that Edwin van der Sar was caught totally unprepared.
That goal was so expertly placed that anyone familiar with the usual standard of football played by the Malaysian team might have considered it to be a fluke.
But a second very impressive goal, also from Amri Yahyah, during the second half sent out the message loud and clear—it is time to consider Malaysia in a new light.
Some people have scoffed at the effort and voiced their (quite unasked for) opinion that "it was only a friendly," like that somehow diminishes the sheer brilliance of these two individual pieces of play.
"Friendly" or not, it was clear that both teams were there to play a match. This was not the usual bunch of second-stringers that Manchester United normally sends out against an "inferior" opponent.
It was a team that included Giggs, Rooney, Van der Sar, and of course Nani, who so recently boasted that he could replace Cristiano Ronaldo and is still obviously not close to doing so yet, despite a quite tidy looking goal he scored midway through the first half.
If only Malaysia could produce the same high standard of play consistently, we could enjoy seeing them play more often in international competition instead of them being always pocketed away in the AFC.
To be fair to Manchester United, I have first hand experience of the Malaysian climate and I can definitely say that I hardly envy anyone who would have to run around for 90+ minutes in those conditions, especially a team more naturally acclimatized to playing during the chilly English winter.
Yayah scored his second goal of the match when Ben Foster, replacing Van der Sar, was caught miles out of his territory. Trying to stop the ball with his foot, he misjudged it and was forced to chase it. Yahyah was a good 30 yards behind but reacted quickly, outsprinting the goalkeeper and snapped a goal just as both players crashed to the ground.
That effort brought the score to 2-2 and raised hopes that Malaysia might actually have a genuine chance of staging an upset. It was certainly far from the "six or seven goal victory" that one commentator smugly predicted for Manchester United (not before the match, mind you, but shortly after Malaysia's first goal was scored).
Michael Owen, making his first appearance here in the red jersey, dashed those hopes with a lazy little instep kick that trickled past the goalkeeper (who fell) and then went on to beat a lone defender directly in front of goal who actually looked like he had every opportunity to stop the ball. But that player stumbled and Manchester United claimed victory.
It may not have made a lot of difference because if Owen hadn't scored it looked very likely that a penalty would have been awarded against the Malaysian side, as Mohd Farizal brought Ryan Giggs down well inside the box only a split second before the winning goal went in. It's very unlikely that Giggs would have missed a penalty.
No matter what, it was a very entertaining match, and due to the forced cancellation of Manchester United's planned tour of Indonesia (due to the recent terrorist attacks), a rematch with Malaysia is scheduled to be played tonight (Monday, 20 July 2009).
We can only hope that this match will be every bit as spectacular and enjoyable as the previous one, and maybe even just a little bit sweeter from the point-of-view of Malaysian fans.
I highly doubt, however, that we will see anybody eclipse that first goal from Amri Yahyah. That would be almost too sweet to contemplate. So for this match, you've been warned—stay awake! You won't want to miss a second of it.
Notes (added July 21): I have been totally overwhelmed by the unexpected popularity of this article and I'd just like to thank everyone who dropped in to read it. If you enjoyed this article, here are some links to other articles that I think you may also enjoy:
Malay Mail article: Five Minutes With Mohd Amri Yahya
KodeeXII article: ManUtd vs Malaysia XI: Amri Yahya Scores a Brace Against MU
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