BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysia defeated Fiji 1-0 in their friendly match on Thursday, thanks to Syafiq Ahmad's 19th minute solitary goal.
Harimau Malaya head coach Tan Cheng Hoe fielded a mostly young starting line-up, with five former Malaysia U-23 players starting the match. Only one out-and-out striker started in the match; JDT II forward Syafiq Ahmad while experienced goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat returned to the starting line-up.
Despite starting positively, it was the hosts who almost fell behind in the 10th minute. A poor tackle by Irfan Zakaria left Kavaia Rawaqa with only Fahmi to beat at the near post. Fortunately for Malaysia, the defender's attempt only hit the post.
But their possession paid off, following a quick exchange of passes involving Syazwan Zainon in the 19th minute. He squared a low short cross to Syafiq, who did not miss from five yards out. However, the goal came with a cost; Syafiq was hurt scoring the goal and had to be taken off minutes later. He was replaced by Shafiq Shaharudin.
The combination of wingers Syazwan and Safawi Rasid, attacking midfielder Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Syafiq managed to keep Fiji in their half, but the striker's departure dulled down the threat offered by the quartet.
The first half ended 1-0 to the hosts.
At halftime, Cheng Hoe made two changes; taking off Fahmi for Hafizul Hakim Khairul Nizam, and first half substitute Shafiq for Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor, which meant that his charges were essentially playing without a forward.
Just before the clock struck the hour mark, Wan Zack managed to squeeze the ball underneath Fiji goalkeeper Misiwane Nairube after he was put through, but he was flagged for offside. Minutes later he was presented with an almost similar chance, but this time dragged his shot wide.
Cheng Hoe made a few more changes, but could not add to their first half goal. The match ended in a 1-0 win to the hosts, their second consecutive win this year.
Malaysia : Fahmi (GK) (C) (Hafizul 46'), Irfan (Kenny 78'), Shahrul, Adam, Syazwan (Nasir 87'), Nazmi, Safawi (Nazirul 67'), Akram, Rizal, Syazwan, Syafiq Ahmad (Shafiq Shaharudin 26') (Wan Zack 46').
Fiji : Misiwani, (GK), Kavaia (Ilisoni 80'), Remueru (C), Kolinio, Laisenia, Zibraaz, Kishan (Atonio 90+2'), Mitieli (Savenaca 34'), Paulo (Epeli 76'), Rusiate (Ratu 67'), Christopher (Filipe 90+3').
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