Dominant Malaysia only eked out narrow win over Nepal

Malaysia achieved a 2-0 win over Nepal but should have scored more on a night where Harimau Malaya were profligate in front of goal.

It was a match between a Nepal side seven places higher than Malaysia in the FIFA rankings but on the pitch, the latter still held supreme over their opponent from the same continent. The one-sided match showed that the rankings is not the proper gauge the measure the strength of teams.

This was Malaysia's one and only warm-up match before the double header against Timor Leste in the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualification, and the performance would have Tan Cheng Hoe caught with mixed feelings. The head coach opted to use his best starting XI to give his players the best preparation ahead of the vital qualifier.

With Norshahrul Idlan Talah starting in the number 9 position, Malaysia had Syafiq Ahmad supporting the experienced forward with Safawi Rasid and Syazwan Zainon on either side of him. The struggle to turn their control on the match into goals will be a big worry for Cheng Hoe heading into the next match.

The huge disaprity between the two teams was evident right from the start as Malaysia exerted their dominance on the game and went straight at Nepal. It was fast and furious from the kick-off as the home side threatened to find the early goal to settle their nerves.

Syazwan hit the post in the 5th minute while Safawi Rasid had several shots at goal which Kiran Kumar did well to parry each time. The inability to score meant that despite the extreme control that Malaysia had on the game, their game turned erratic and looked to be trying to force the issue when they didn't have to.

But in a rare move forward due to Nepal winning a free kick, the visitors almost took a surprised lead. Farizal Marlias' punch did not too far and on the rebound Nepal hit the post to give Malaysia the jolt needed to keep their focus on the match.

Cheng Hoe introduced Akhyar Rashid and Nor Azam Azih for Syazwan and Akram Mahinan respectively, and the impact was immediate. Akhyar twisted and turned in the box before being brought down, thus earning Malaysia a rather soft penalty. Safawi step up confidently to put away the opening goal of the night.

With just nine minutes left on the clock, Azam step up to deliver the perfect free kick which Shahrul Saad headed past Kiran to give Malaysia a 2-0 lead. That was all Cheng Hoe's boys could muster on the night as Nepal continued to deny the home team until the final whistle.

Plenty for the haed coach to think about in the next few days but positives would also include debuts for the La'Vere Corbin-Ong, Dominic Tan and Faisal Halim at the senior international level.


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