Malaysia stormed to a perfect start in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers after handing Indonesia a 3-0 beating in the opening group match in Bangkok on Wednesday evening. With the other result being a rain-affected one that ended with Thailand drawing 1-1 with Mongolia, it puts Malaysia at the top of the standings in Group H.
Syafiq Ahmad struck early one and his 4th minute goal shook the confidence of the Indonesian players as they continued to crumble in the first half. Jafri Chew added to the scoreline with a header from a free kick before N. Thanablan ghosted in at the far post to knock home a well taken corner kick to send Malaysia on their way with a 3-0 lead.
It was a much more balanced affair in the second half but Malaysia's defence remained impregnable with Ifwat Akmal in splendid form. An injury to Syafiq at the hour mark was the only downside of the second half for Malaysia. The Kedah forward had to replaced by Sean Eugene and remains a doubt for Friday's important tie against Thailand.
"Of course it is a good win when we get three points against Indonesia. The first half was different from the second half, which is normal when you have a 3-goals lead, the opponent will surely try their best to come back."
"But my players kept their discipline well, especially in defence. Even though we were on the back foot in the second half, we still managed to create a couple of good chances. The substitutes todays also provided good contributions," said Datuk Ong Kim Swee in the post-match press conference.
The win is the first positive boost for the squad who had been through a testing period of late. The players who have not reported for the squad despite being called-up has been a big problem, while the on-going domestic league also meant that the players were coming and leaving the squad at various times of the training camp.
While one win will not be all the vindication that Ong have but it does at least provide some form of proof as to his ability to bring out the best in the boys despite a difficult preparations. The results from the first day is likely to change the thinking from finishing with as many points on second - to topping the group.
A draw against Thailand and to go on to give Mongolia a hammering in the final game could well see Malaysia finished as champions of the group and qualify themselves for the finals in China next year. A feat not imaginable just two week ago when only six players reported for the training on the first day.
"Facing Thailand on Friday is not an easy match after we played against Indonesia today. What we need to do is to get back our focus for the second game and hope that they players will recover well before playing Thailand. To qualify for the finals, we'll need to get at least a point against Thailand."
"After that we'll think about the last one against Mongolia on Sunday. But we cannot take them lightly even though they might be considered the weakest team in the group," Ong added.