ON A rain drench night, supporters of the Harimau Malaya saw the good, the bad and the ugly of the national team. Approximately 40,000 fans braved the elements to lend support to the nation’s bid to make some significant progress in its World Cup qualifying campaign.
The good was the opening half hour whereby Malaysia took an early lead courtesy of a towering header from defender Dion Cools. He managed to evade defenders during a corner kick and rose unmarked to nod home a powerful header.
The men in yellow controlled the game by dominating possession, pushing the visitors deep into their own half who seemed to be struggling with the weather conditions.
The bad manifested itself with the Malaysian’s wasteful finishing and inability to make the most of the possession they were enjoying. The home side – ranked 137 in the world – had looked to exploit the space on the left of Kyrgyzstan’s defence but far too often, after evading the defenders the final ball was found wanting.
The ugly side reared its head as the Malaysian team took its collective foot off the pedal. Kyrgyzstan sensed an opportunity and were soon level when Malaysia failed to clear the lines when goalkeeper Ahmad Syihan Hazmi twice failed to hold on to the ball, thus allowing Zhyrgalbek Kayrat to lash home.
The home team’s misery was further compounded just two minutes later when Ernist Batyrkanov’s precise strike gave Kyrgyzstan the lead going into half time.
The visitors’ mood was buoyant in the second half as they seemed to win almost every 50-50 ball and were forcing Malaysia into making mistakes. Their pressure soon paid off as Kai Merk took full advantage of sloppy defending to make it 3-1 in the 56th minute.
Malaysia looked dead and buried until an own goal from Khristiyan Brauzman in the 71st minute gave the home side a lifeline. Sensing that a comeback was on the cards, the Malayan Tigers found a second wind and applied continued pressure on the team ranked 97th as the Kyrgyz were visibly tiring.
That pressure soon paid off with another fabulous header from Cools who rose above the defenders to thunder home the equaliser and send supporters at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil into a frenzy.
The best was yet to come as Malaysia kept pressing and they were duly rewarded with a late winner deep into injury time when Faisal Halim latched onto a pass on the edge of the penalty box before putting it beyond the reach of the Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper.
There was still time for Malaysia to exhibit more ‘bad’ football as they contrived to let the visitors almost steal a point when their substitute Joel Kojo was left completely unmarked to nearly nod in an equaliser in the final seconds.
Malaysia will play Taiwan in Taipei on Nov 21 before resuming their campaign next year against Oman (away on March 21 and home on March 26), followed by an away match against Kyrgyzstan (June 6) and at home against Taiwan on June 11 to complete the Group D fixtures. – Nov 18, 2023
Main pic credit: Harian Metro