Malaysia were the architects of their own downfall as they fell to a three goal defeat in Tajikistan in Dollah Salleh's national team managerial debut
If new Malaysia head coach Dollah Salleh was unaware of the size of the task facing him in leading Harimau Malaya, he will be acutely aware of the difficulty after a demoralising 1-4 defeat at the hands of Tajikistan.
Although there were some positive signs in the match, such as Dollah’s troops trying to implement a short passing style, they all too often found themselves overwhelmed by their more organised and street-smart opponents who pressed them well and forced Malaysia to cough up the ball in dangerous areas.
Dollah would have hoped that his new charges could keep things tight for as long as possible and therefore grow into the game, however after only 16 minutes his team were behind following some poor defending. It was Kazachstan based defender Davron Ergashev who was left completely unmarked from a corner, and he powered home his free header on 16 minutes, an effort which goalkeeper Farizal should have done better with.
Although Malaysia were attempting more of a passing style, with less aimless balls being launched forward from defence, their attacking players still faced the familiar problem of being isolated and having a lack of options on the ball. On the rare occasion that Malaysia did have forays forward, earning themselves set-pieces, the delivery from Amri Yahyah and Kunanlan was wasteful.
The hosts on the other hand were continually breaking forward with pace, often outnumbering the overworked Malaysian midfield and creating chances. On 38 minutes it came as no shock to see midfielder Ibrahim Rabimov receive the ball in acres of space before firing past a helpless Farizal from distance to make it 2-0.
Just as it seemed as if Malaysia would be out of the game by half-time, they were handed a lifeline on 43 minutes, being granted a penalty after a foul on Safee Sali. Yahyah, who had worked hard to that point but was often on the fringes of the game, was the man who stepped up and slotted home to bring some rare relief to the visiting side.
If the Tigers had hoped that this goal could spur them onto an equaliser in the second half, then their hopes were crushed following a disasterous 10 minute spell. Minutes after the break it was captain Aidil Zafuan who conceded a penalty which looked to have giften Tajikistan their two goal lead back, however he was rescued by Farizal who saved brilliantly from the resulting spot-kick.
However on 52 minutes Tajikistan did make it 3-1 following yet more poor defending from the visitors. Having failed to deal with a routine long ball and a cross from the right-hand side, Malaysia were made to pay as midfielder Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev smashed home following a penalty-box melee.
Things got worse for a shellshocked Malaysia a minute later as they again gave the ball away cheaply in midfield, and again allowed Tajikistan to get in behind them down the right-hand side. This time it was midfielder Nuriddin Davronov who profited, diving to convert the cross past an outstreched Farizal.