Malaysia suffered their ninth defeat in 11 friendly matches as they were easily outclassed by an enterprising China team
This match was hailed as the first of many Class ‘A’ friendlies which would be the beginning of Malaysia’s rise up the FIFA rankings from their current lowly position of 158th. A chance to boost fan morale after eight defeats in the last ten friendly matches, in which 26 goals had been conceded. A chance to win back the support of the fans, and demonstrate that Malaysian football is on the up once again.
Instead it turned out to be an all-too-familiar defeat which again showed a startling lack of ambition from head coach K. Rajagopal. Sure there have been worse defeats in the past 12 months (such as the 0-3 Suzuki Cup loss versus Singapore), and there have been more embarrassing results (such as the draw against Bangladesh); but when at 0-1 down, you have all ten of your outfield players within 40 yards of their own goal, looking as if they are trying to defend a lead rather than get back into the game, then it causes great indignity.
Malaysia fans may not have been expecting anything like the 5-1 victory that Thailand recorded in China back in June, but from the get-go it seemed as if Rajagopal would be happy to better the 1-6 defeat suffered by Singapore in Tianjin last Friday. Keeping things tight may have been a reasonable plan initially, considering the recent form of the hosts who were unbeaten in their last four matches, and it worked for much of the first 40 minutes as Malaysia cancelled out China, albeit at times resorting to having almost a six man defence.
The first real sign of danger came in the 41st minute as China forward Jiang Ning unleashed an effort from the edge of the area which had Farizal beaten, but it came back off the bar. The home team didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring as Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Zheng Long curled a precise free kick over the wall and inside the near post, after Omar had clumsily felled the rampaging Wu Lei.
The goal visibly galvanised the Dragons, as their forwards and midfielders began to display some neat interplay to work their way through the packed Malaysia defence. They carried on this momentum into the second half as Malaysia retreated deeper and deeper into their own half, often having every outfield player behind the ball, and too few players breaking forward whenever they did gain possession.
Even with so many behind the ball, China still managed to create chances. In the 53rd minute Jiang got free in the Malaysia area as a through ball was lofted over the top of the defence, he cut inside Aidil Zafuan well, but then got the ball stuck under his feet and soon lost the opportunity. With Malaysia so deep in their own half inviting pressure it was no surprise when the second did come. It was Yang Xu who scored with a header after escaping from Razman, after good work from Jiang who took advantage of a quick free-kick to supply the cross.
A minute later and Jiang almost scored himself as he got on the end of Zheng Long’s scuffed shot, but Farizal reacted well to keep out the close range effort. While Malaysia did bring on Muhamad Zambri and Shakir bin Shaari to try and change the game, the Malayan Tigers were unable to keep possession, even deep inside their own half. The fact that Farizal conceded a corner from a simple Helmi backpass, under no pressure from the opposition, displayed just how brittle confidence was amongst the visiting team.
The Tigers best chance of the game came in the 77th minute as Razman made a rare foray forward. His cross-cum pass was headed into the top corner but keeper Wang Lei scrambled back to tip the ball behind for a corner. Injury was added to insult ten minutes before time when Norshahrul was cynically blocked by Liu Jianye, causing him to be replaced, and putting a cap on yet another disappointing friendly performance, and result.