Leeds United brought an end to their time in Myanmar with a 2-0 win over the country’s national team.
Ryan Edmondson’s strike on the hour, his first goal for United’s senior team, set up a narrow victory on a wet night in Mandalay and drew a line under Leeds’ visit to the troubled country.
Edmondson, the talented 16-year-old who made his competitive debut in United’s last game of the Championship season, capped a lively performance with neat footwork after a shot from Caleb Ekuban spilled into his path inside the box.
Jay-Roy Grot put the result beyond doubt with a fine 84th-minute finish, finding the net with an unstoppable drive.
The result in the second match of the AYA Bank Tour followed on from Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to a Myanmar National League All-Stars line-up in Yangon and sent United’s players off on their summer a break a week after the conclusion of their Championship term.
At the end of a trip mired in controversy, it remains to be seen what Leeds gain from their spell in the Far East. There was, according to Radrizzani, no money in it for the club though he admitted this week that other areas of his empire could pursue business opportunities in Myanmar. Both Aser, his investment firm, and TV network Eleven Sports were involved in the organising of United’s friendlies.
Football took a back seat for the duration, not least because of the kickabout nature of both games, but it will become the priority again after Leeds, Radrizzani and the club’s senior management fly home this weekend. Radrizzani, as revealed by the YEP on Thursday, is in the process of selling a 10 per cent stake in United to foreign investors, cash from which should help with the summer transfer window. The coming weeks should paint some picture of how Radrizzani intends to back head coach Paul Heckingbottom, if indeed Heckingbottom is still his man.
Heckingbottom took on the tour of Myanmar without complaint, albeit while leaving the bulk of his first-team squad behind. His plan for today’s game was a reversal of Wednesday’s defeat to the MNL All-Stars, with most of the midweek substitutes starting and changes coming en masse on 60 minutes. Kalvin Phillips talked of “ridiculous weather” after Wednesday’s friendly and the heat at Mandalay’s Mandalar Thiri Stadium hovered at a similar level.
Myanmar currently rank 135th in the FIFA rankings, a little higher than their average over the years, and their most recently friendlies pitted them against Macao and Kyrgyzstan, the latter ending in a 5-1 defeat. The country’s most notable achievement of the past few seasons was their appearance at the Under-20 World Cup in 2015. It was international opposition but not as European footballers know it.
The higher level of experience in Heckingbottom’s team prevented Myanmar from threatening as the MNL All-Stars had done but the first half was an exhibition, minus much exhibitionism. Ekuban, who missed a series of opportunities before the break, had the earliest chance but prodded a shot at goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Phyo after bursting into space in Myanmar’s box. Soon after he nodded wide as Leeds attacked down the right.
Myanmar carved out their best opening before half-time when Win Naing Soe beat the offside trap and drove an effort against Bailey Peacock-Farrell who guarded his near post well but parts of the match slowed to walking pace. Leeds raised the tempo after the half hour with an attack in which Edmondson had a shot parried and Ekuban fired wide. Ekuban also sliced a volley off target after Ronaldo Vieira opened up the Myanmar defence.
The second half brought a heavy downpour of rain but the conditions worked in Leeds’ favour on 59 minutes as Myanmar’s keeper spilled a long-range effort from Ekuban and allowed Edmondson to round him before slotting into an empty net.
Myanmar almost equalised as Dway Ko Ko Chit rattled the base of a post but Leeds, with Samuel Saiz playing out the last 30 minutes, controlled the latter stages and sealed their win when Grot cut in off the left before smashing the ball beyond Kyaw Zin Phyo.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell (Lonergan 46), Ayling (Hosannah 60), Struijk (Daiz 60), O’Connor (Dalby 60), Pearce (Denton 60), Phillips (Nicell 60), Vieira (Rey 60), Gomes (Shackleton 60), Clarke (Saiz 60), Ekuban (Machuca 60), Edmondson (Grot 60).