Hafizul admits nerves but delighted to with late penalty save

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Perak's Hafizul Hakim was the toast of the country after his late penalty heroics helped Malaysia to a 1-1 draw against Hong Kong.

A new hero emerged for Malaysia after Hafizul Hakim produced a last minute penalty save against Hong Kong to help the team to gain their first point in the 2019 Asian Cup qualification round. 

With the score tied at 1-1, Hong Kong had been given a spot kick late into added time and could have sent Malaysia to their second consecutive defeat in the group stage. 

However, Perak's Hafizul stood up to the task and brilliantly dived to his right hand side to stop Alessandro Leonardo the chance to grab his second goal in the match.

Hafizul had only been told that he would start the match, hours leading up to the match on Tuesday night. Nominal first choice, Khairulazhan Khalid had came down with a fever since returning from Myanmar and had not recovered sufficiently enough to be involved.

"This [Tuesday] evening when we had a team meeting around 5pm. I was ready but this is my first competitive match, of course I was a little bit nervous but I think it went well for me."

"I picked a spot and I stuck with my decision. Thankfully it was the right one and maybe it is my lucky day today," said Hafizul after the match.

While some of his distribution weren't pretty to watch, the 24-year-old did not let that part of his game to affect him and stood up for the count to produce several stops, particularly against Alexander Oluwatayo. 

The penalty decision given by Australian referee, Christopher Beath was just one of many decisions which seemed to infuriate the Malaysian camp and Hafizul admitted that emotions did get the better of the team towards the end. 

"I don't want to criticise the referee but there were a few calls today [Tuesday] that were dubious. Overall the referee was decent but some of the decisions he made did made us feel like weren't treated fairly."

"However, one point is a positive point. We are playing at home and it was important that we didn't lose. We are not far from Hong Kong and we can still fight to get to UAE [United Arab Emirates]," added the keeper.

Hafizul had been part of the national team set-up since late last year when he was called up by Datuk Ong Kim Swee for the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup. He is also an integral part of Mehmet Durakovic's plans for Perak.

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