Much improved Malaysia downed Afghanistan to finish third

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Faiz Nasir, Malaysia v Afghanistan, Airmarine Cup, 23 Mar 2019
Malaysia made amends for the poor showing against Singapore to come away deserved 1-2 winners against Afghanistan in the Airmarine Cup.

Hammered from pillar to post for the abysmal showing in the Causeway Derby just three days earlier, Tan Cheng Hoe managed to rallied his troops for one good showing in this international window to avoid finishing last in the inaugural Airmarine Cup.

Cheng Hoe rang the changes to the Malaysia team with four new players coming in with Rizal Ghazali, Hadin Azman, Halim Saari and Faiz Nasir replacing Matthew Davies, Syazwan Zainon, Nor Azam Azih and Zaquan Adha respectively. Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was pushed to the central striking role with Faiz given the licence to roam behind him.

The Harimau Malaya started on the front foot with some intricate play despite heavy showers causing mayhem on the pitch at Bukit Jalil National Stadium. But it was Afghanistan who struck the first blow with what was effectively their first attempt in the match. Faysal Shayesteh produced a stunning shot from distance to beat Khairul Fahmi in the 32nd minute for Afghanistan to lead 1-0.

It was a case what you can do, I can do better. Debutant Faiz fired an almost similar shot from outside the box in the 44th minute to grab the equaliser for Malaysia, who did not let the disappointment of conceding first hinder them. In fact, Malaysia could have taken a remarkable half time lead had Hadin produced a better shot just a minute later.

After the half time break Afghanistan should have been awarded a penalty in the 59th minute when Jabar Sharza looked to be have been bundled off the ball by a rash Shahrul Saad challenge but Thai referee Chaireag Ngamsam waved play on much to the anger of the Afghanistan bench.

Malaysia recovered from that lucky escape and went on to dominate the match, creating several good scoring chances. In the 60th minute, Hadin benefited from a defensive mistake to go one-on-one against Ovays Azizi but the latter came out on top in that duel. 

Then Halim produced a stinging shot that warmed Ovays' gloves before Norshahrul showed some delicate touches inside the box but his chip sailed just over the bar. Sensing an opportunity to capitalise, Cheng Hoe threw on S. Kumaahran, Kenny Pallraj and Matthew Davies into the mix as Malaysia went in search of the winner.

The winner came momentarily after the substitutions were completed as Afghanistan failed to clear their lines and gave repeated chances for Malaysia to cross the ball into the box. Davies accepted the invitation and his low cross in the 84th minute was turned into his own goal by the unfortunate Abassin Alikhil.

Afghanistan could have their arguments over the penalty not given but on the overall display from the two teams, they can have no complains over being beaten by a team 20 places below them in the last released FIFA rankings.


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