BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
The Malaysia U-22 squad took the field for the first match of the 2017 U-23 Dubai Cup against big favourites China and came away with a creditable 1-1 draw, in a match played on Monday at the Police Officers Club Stadium in Dubai.
Frank Bernhardt started the match with the likes of Khairil Anuar, Adam Nor Azlin and Syafiq Ahmad but Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) winger Safawi Rasid was only on the bench.
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China opened the scoring in the 69th minute when Yao Jun Sheng converted from the penalty spot to put the Young Tigers in the spotlight. However, Bernhardt switched the tactics around as he maneuvered a comeback from his young team.
"In the first half we played more defensively because they fielded good players. It was different in the second half as we gained control of the match, pressed more and went on the counter attack," said Bernhardt after the match.
The fight back finally paid off right at the death for Malaysia when N. Thanabalan capitalised on a defensive error from the Chinese to put away the equaliser in the 90th minute. The draw sets up Bernhardt's team nicely before the second match against Thailand on Thursday. The German is keen for his players to draw confidence from this match.
"In fact, we had two good chances to score. However, the draw is a good result for both teams. I hope the players will use this as motivation to perform better in the coming matches," added Bernhardt.
The U-22 team are using this tournament as part of their preparations before the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers in July and the SEA Games in August.
The other matches played saw Jordan defeating Singapore 2-0 while Thailand showed themselves to be the team to beat with a 2-1 with over United Arab Emirates (UAE).