Malaysia go down fighting

KUALA LUMPUR: A spirited Malaysia fought hard but the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had the extra edge as Harimau Malaya went down 1-2 in the Group G match of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second qualifying round at the National Stadium Bukit Jalil, on Tuesday night.

Forward Ali Ahmed Mabkhout was UAE’s hero of the night following his double strike in the 43rd and 75th minutes to inspire the Al-Abyad’s (The White) away comeback win.

Malaysia’s Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad (No. 20) heads the ball against UAE defenders in the second round World Cup/2023 Asian Cup on Tuesday. Photo: Bernama

Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad shocked the UAE with the opening goal for Malaysia after just 36 seconds when he headed in Matthew Davies’s inch perfect cross to give Malaysia a perfect start.
Malaysia who recorded a 3-2 win against its regional rivals Indonesia in Jakarta last Thursday could have led Bert Van Marwijk’s side by 3-0 inside 25 minutes of play.

However, Muhammad Syafiq’s effort in the 14th minute after Matthew strung a low cross was blocked by the opponent while an unmarked Norshahrul Idlan Talaha failed to convert inside the penalty box in the 24th minute.

UAE were back on level terms in the 43rd minute after Ali Ahmed produced a glancing header that easily beat goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Marlias and the 1-1 scoreline stayed that way at the break.

The UAE gradually began to take the sting out of the electrifying home atmosphere in the second half as they took control and created chances but the tactical change made by Cheng Hoe by bringing in Mohamad Syamer Kutty and J.Partiban gave more balance to his squad.

But with 15 minutes left before the final whistle, a careless mistake by Shahrul Mohd Saad was punished by Ali Ahmed when he made a good run with the ball before slotting in UAE’s second goal of the night.

The national squad had a golden opportunity to make it 2-2 through Muhammad Safawi Rasid‘s effort but unfortunately his shot from close range in the 79th minute hit the post. Malaysia kept on the pressure to seal at least one point at home ground but the 2-1 score stayed until the final whistle.

Elsewhere in another Group G match Tuesday night, Thailand trashed Indonesia 3-0 at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. Malaysia and UAE, with three points, now trail  Thailand by one point while Vietnam are in fourth place with one point.  Indonesia remain pointless at the bottom. – Bernama