With only the group winners and four best runner-up guaranteed a spot in the AFC U23 Championship finals in Bangkok next year, big margin wins in other matches put a real dampener in what was a positive start for Ong Kim Swee's team in the qualifiers.
Japan won 8-0, Myanmar won 7-0, South Korea won 8-0, China won 5-0 and Iraq won 5-0 to put a real importance in the goal difference heading into the final reckoning. While it's true that all those teams could finish top of their respective groups, it cannot be overlooked that Japan and Myanmar are in the same Group I.
It was a completely one-sided affair in the second Group J match played at Shah Alam Stadium on Friday. Still early days but come the end of the group stage, Kim Swee and his team could rue the failure to score more goals from the plenty chances that they created on the night.
Akhyar Rashid started the ball rolling as early as the 4th minute of the match when he controlled Syahmi Safari's pass inside the box before finding the top corner to put Malaysia 1-0 ahead. Chances would continue to fall to Malaysia but through a combination of poor decision making and resolute defending from the Philippines side.
It took Malaysia another 27 minutes before the ball nestled in the Philippines net once again. Once again Akhyar was the one with the last touch, converting from close range after Philippines failed to clear their lines following a Malaysia corner kick.
The away side's first real opportunity came eight minutes from the end of the first half when centre back Jordan Jarvis was presented with a shooting chance inside Malaysia's penalty box but could only swept his shot wide of the post.
Right before half time, Malaysia had the perfect opportunity to make it 3-0 but Japan-based Hadi Fayyadh failed to convert after he was presented with a one-on-one chance against Michael Asong, shooting straight at the Philippines keeper when it seemed easier to score.
Hadi's nightmare would continue straight after the second half when he again was not able to beat Asong in the 47th minute and subsequently released from his misery when Kim Swee replaced him with Nik Azli Nik Alias in the 55th minute.
Chances kept on falling to Malaysia but profligacy became a real problem as substitute Faisal Halim showed his lack of composure in the 73rd minute, choosing power over accuracy and found the frame of the goal to be in the way of his shot.
Two quickfire chances came in the next few minutes as Safawi Rasid forced a good save from Asong before Syamer Kutty Abba headed wide from the subsequent corner kick to keep the frustration going for the home side. The midfielder turned centre back today was also unable to convert from another free header in the 81st minute.
The third goal finally came a minute later but through very unsportsmanlike means. Philippines had kicked the ball out for a throw in so that one of their injured player could be attended to. The ball should have been returned to Philippines from the throw in, but somehow Faisal chased down the ball and slotted past Asong to make it 3-0.
That proved to be the final goal on the night and despite a comfortable win, it was a night where Malaysia left their shooting boots at home.
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