Malaysia completed their Group A fixtures of the 2017 KL EA Games with an easy 3-1 win over Laos to finish top of the group. The win achieved through a lacklustre performance will now see Malaysia await what happens in the Thursday fixtures in Group B where Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia will batte it out in the final day of group fixtures in the football event.
Datuk Ong Kim Swee made sweeping changes to the team that defeated Myanmar in their last outing, swapping in eight fresh players. Only Adib Zainudin, Irfan Zakaria and N. Thanabalan remained as the likes of Syafiq Ahmad, Jafri Chew and Amirul Hisyam were given a chance to play their way into Ong's plans for the knockout stage.
The change did litlle to liven up the opening exchanges as Malaysia struggled to find any form of rhythm or cohesion. It wasn't until the 22nd minute that the home side fashion their first proper chance of the match when only a weak Syafiq connectino to a Jafri cross denied Malaysia the opening goal.
However, the two players would be involved again just four minutes later when Syafiq rose highest to head the ball from a Syahmi Safari cross but it unfortunately only crashed against the bar. But Jafri was on hand to slam home the rebound to give Malaysia a 1-0 lead.
That lead didn't last long when Laos made full use of the first attacking move that they managed to conjure up. They had earned a free kick in a very good position in the 32nd minute and Phantavong Thanin produced a sumptuous set piece that went in off the post to give Laos an undeserved equaliser.
Malaysia reacted well to conceding that goal as they swamped forward in search of the lead again. Syafiq forced Paseuth Symanolinh into a good block before Adib's attempted cross in the 39th minute took a wicked deflection to give the Young Tigers the lead for the second time in the match.
The half time break seemed to take the momentum out of the match as both teams found it hard to shift up the gears in the second half. There were increasingly less movement up front for Malaysia with Laos dropping back to defend in numbers.
Ong replaced Irfan after an hour played, to give him some well-earned rest with the earlier rested Adam Nor Azlin taking his place in the centre of the back three. Minutes later, Thanabalan was the next to be afforded rest with Akhyar Rashid coming on in his stead.
Yet, proceedings went on as they did prior to the substitutions until the added time. A late burst of pace by Syafiq enabled him to get past his marker before delivering a pinpoint cross for Jafri to knock home for Malaysia's third goal of the game. That proved to be the final action of the night as the 'Malaysia reserve' won but lacked real panache to give Ong a tough time in deciding his line-up for Saturday's semifinal match.
Any planning would however have to wait at least 22 hours as that will be when their semi-final opponent from Group B will be decided.