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Nor Azam shines in Malaysia's slim win over Maldives

16:42 SAST 2018/11/03
Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Malaysia U22, SEA Games, 16082017
Malaysia carved out a 3-0 win the final preparation game before the start of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup as Maldives were defeated at Bukit Jalil.

For the first time since Tan Cheng Hoe took over national team head coach role from Eduardo Vingada, he may have finally found the midfield lynchpin that the team was crying out for. Nazmi Faiz filled the role for a brief period at the start of the year but his drop of form in the latter part of 2018 meant that Cheng Hoe was left searching for an alternative solution and it finally came during the Maldives match.

Nor Azam Azih is not an unfamiliar name in Malaysian football but for various reasons, had not been able to be used by Cheng Hoe in past friendlies despite being named in the initial call-up squad. Everything went through Nor Azam in the 45 minutes that he was on the pitch. Right from the start it was obvious that he was given the creative licence in the team and his performance warranted that opportunity.

In the mercurial Pahang midfielder, Malaysia have a real game-changer who not only have the vision to see movement on the pitch but also has the technical qualities to execute those passes. Right from the start his understanding with club colleagues in Mohamadou Sumareh was evident as Nor Azam managed to slide in the right winger beyond Maldives’ left back time and again.

The goal came after 16 minutes played as Norshahrul Idlan Talaha picked out Zaquan Adha in the box and the Malaysia captain finally broke his five-game drought with a very smart finish. But the intensity from the home side dropped dramatically after that and Maldives were able to pick holes in Malaysia’s defence with shots of their own.

Khairul Fahmi was called into action once in the first half to close to his right hand side from Ali Fasir’s shot. The Melaka keeper also had to be on his toes in the second half to push away Ibrahim Hussain’s shot in the 60th minute.

Cheng Hoe used up his full allocated six changes to give the likes of Hazwan Bakri, Adam Nor Azlin and Safawi Rasid a run out. The changes gave the Maldives side even more chance to get into the game as Malaysia were forced to defend more than they anticipated.

Petar Segrt's team constantly found space behind Malaysia's defence in the second half and that is something that Cheng Hoe will have to work on as before they face tougher opponents in the coming weeks

That said, the approximately 5000 fans in attendance were able to see Malaysia close out the match and even tripled the lead through Safawi in the 81st minute and Sumareh in the third minute of added time to put the team in a confident mood ahead of the start of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup on Thursday away to Cambodia.

Safawi added the gloss on the result but the one that the fans should get excited at the prospect of seeing more, is that of Nor Azam in the playmaking role at the base of midfield after the 23-year-old Maran born player proved his fitness in the 45 mintues that he was used. 

Cheng Hoe will named his final squad of 23 for the AFF in the coming days and Nor Azam Azih has to be one of the first names on the list.


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