A much changed Malaysia team defended well against Qatar for 50 minutes, but individual errors, led to goals from Khalfan Ibrahim and Yusef Ahmed.
Malaysia opened their 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualification campaign with a difficult trip to the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha. With 10 regular squad members unavailable, K. Rajagopal was forced to make seven changes to his team which had its last competitive fixture against Thailand in December. Mahalli Jasuli, Fadhli Shas, Aidil Zafuan and Azamuddin Akil were the only players that remained. King Raja selected a relatively inexperienced line-up which saw Jasuli play in an unfamiliar defensive-midfield role.
As expected, the home team dominated the first half. Uruguayan-born striker Sebastián Soria had the first chance with a near post header from Khalfan Ibrahim's free-kick, but keeper Khairul Fahmi gathered it. Minutes later, forward Hassan Al Haidos took a long shot after Hamid Ismail's cross from the right was cleared onto his path, but it was always rising. Malaysia’s best opportunity of the half came in the 20th minute after Akil's cross found Amri Yahyah but he steered his header wide.
Qatar dominated the first half having most of the possession, but the Malayan Tigers pressed on, getting as many men as possible behind the ball. Forwards, Yahyah and Khyril Muhymeen spent a lot of time deep inside their own half. K. Reuben did exceptionally well to cancel out Abdelkarim Hassan’s advances at goal.
At the 54th minute, Akil was guilty of surrendering possession too early, allowing Abdulaziz Hatem to break forward before he was fouled by Jasuli 30 yards out. Khalfan Ibrahim’s resulting free-kick was deflected off the wall and spun into the back of the net beyond a helpless Fahmi.
The goal boosted the Qatar’s morale and soon after, they came close to doubling their lead. Ibrahim capitalised on the Malayan Tigers’ incessant poor passing - he intercepted a stray pass but blasted way over the bar. In the 58th minute, Al Haydos beat Jasuli on the left touchline and drove forward into the Malaysian penalty area before trying a deft chip over Fahmi. However, the keeper kept his concentration and stopped it.
In an effort to get back into the game, Rajagopal introduced Abdul Hadi and Nor Farhan for the ineffective pair of Ashari Samsuddin and Khyril Muhymeen. Despite the change, it was Qatar who threatened again. In the 64th minute Fadhli had to be alert to block off Khalfan Ibrahim as he charged toward goal. The defence were unable to clear the danger, allowing Sebastian Suria to bundle his way pass Reuben and Aidil before he toe-poked a shot wide.
Malaysia’s best chance in the second half came in the 73rd minute through substitute Hari. Aidil’s free-kick found an unmarked Hari in the box but the header was off-target. With a minute of normal time remaining, Aidil had a chance to test the keeper with a free-kick from 35 yards out, but his effort sailed high over the bar. In the dying minutes of stoppage time, Qatar capitalised on K.Reuben’s poor clearance. The defender miss-kicked his attempt at clearing the ball which saw substitute Magid Mohammed intercept and set up Yusef Ahmed for a tap in.
With this defeat, the upcoming home clashes against Bahrain and Yemen become all important if Malaysia are to stand any chance of making it to Australia in 2015 for the AFC Asian Cup.