An under-strength Malaysian team bounced back from their defeat to Vietnam last month with a big win over Ernest Merrick’s side in Hong Kong
Datuk K.Rajagopal’s assessment of Malaysia being better than some of the teams above them in the official FIFA ranking was proven correct by his players when they went to Hong Kong, completely bossed the game, and came away with a resounding 3-0 win over the hosts.
Rajagopal’s charges made a mockery of the ranking system with a commanding performance over the higher placed Hong Kong team at the Mong Kok Stadium in Kowloon, despite starting with a team deprived of some of its star names.
Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, S.Subramaniam, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak were just four of the nine players who did not travel with the squad due to their involvement in this weekend’s Malaysia Cup final, while regular skipper Safiq Rahim only started on the bench.
Malaysia registered their first shot on target through Kedah captain Baddrol Bakhtiar, whose half-volley from 25-yards out was well gathered by home keeper Yapp Hung Fai.
The next ten minutes of the game were controlled by the home side but they failed to turn their possession into genuine chances.
The Malayan Tigers started to grow into the game as it went on and after a quarter of the game had passed, began troubling Hong Kong’s back-line.
Captain for the day and top striker Safee Sali was first to have a go with a long-range attempt, however it went straight to Hung Fai.
In the 25th minute Malaysia won a free-kick just outside Hong Kong’s box, but Baddrol sent his effort slightly over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, pacey winger S.Kunanlan did extremely well to cut inside from the left wing and take the ball past two players before sending the ball into Hung Fai’s arms.
The Malaysians had their best chance to go ahead in the 36th minute when the ball fell kindly to Safee but the forward’s shot hit the bar and bounced back into play.
Baddrol then had two back-to-back efforts foiled by Hung Fai. First, he tested the goalkeeper with a low left-foot shot, before forcing the South China custodian into another acrobatic save through a well-directed header.
The visitors started the second half in the same manner they ended the first and four minutes into it were denied a goal by Lo Kwan Yee’s off-the-line clearance from a Fadhli Shas header.
Malaysia finally got the goal they deserved on the hour mark through Safee, who ran onto Kunanlan’s ball before sweeping it past the on-rushing Hung Fai.
Safiq, who came on for the industrious Gary Steven Robbat in the 73rd minute, doubled Malaysia’s lead with a trademark free-kick goal eight minutes from the end before another substitute, Ahmad Fakri Saarani, put the icing on the cake with a goal in injury time.
It was definitely a performance that bodes well for next month’s AFF Suzuki Cup.