New Straits Times
THE PLUS AND THE MINUS
Malaysia score psychological boost after edging 10-man Tajikistan in friendly
PSYCHOLOGICALLY, it was a plus for Tan Cheng Hoe’s men. Physically, it was a minus.
A minus in the sense that Malaysia were only able to score the winner after Tajikistan were reduced to 10 men in the very first minute of the second half in their international friendly at Bukit Jalil, on Saturday.
It was a 1-0 win, and Cheng Hoe will gladly take that. It means World No 158 Malaysia have beaten a higher ranked team in World No 116 Tajikistan.
For Cheng Hoe, the win over Tajikistan will put his men in the right frame of mind for two crucial World Cup qualifiers — against Thailand on Nov 14 and Indonesia on Nov 19.
“I think this is a motivating victory for the team... Tajikistan are not an easy team to beat.
“This has been the best match of the team so far, given the intensity of the game,” he said.
Cheng Hoe started the match by trying out several non regulars, while leaving out first choices Brendan Gan and Safawi Rasid. Rightback Syahmi Safari was also moved to right wing.
But this “experiment” saw the Malaysian team struggling to be a cohesive unit. Following a quiet first, Cheng Hoe brought in Brendan and Safawi and this led to a more punchy performance from Malaysia.
But the Malaysian team should be well aware that they were only able to overcome Tajikistan after goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov was sent off for handling the ball outside the box when dealing with a long pass from Malaysia rightback Matthew Davies.
For virtually, the entire second half, Malaysia played with an extra man advantage. They scored only once — with the winner coming from reserve Safawi in the 72nd minute after a fine solo run.
Tajikistan, coached by Usmon Toshev, were not much of a threat to Malaysia as their game lacked aggression.
Cheng Hoe started with Khairulazhan Khalid (goalkeeper), Matthew Davies (right back), Aidil Zafuan (centreback), Shahrul Saad (centreback), La‘vere Corbin-Ong (left back), Baddrol Bakhtiar (midfield), Syamer Kutty (midfield),Azam Azih (midfield), Akhyar Rashid (forward), Syahmi Safari (forward), Syafiq Ahmad (forward).
Tried out as substitutes were Brendan, Safawi, Adam Nor Azlin, Syazwan Andik, Farhan Roslan and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.