A brief lapse in concentration against Vietnam led to the Malaysian Tigers losing 1-0 to the Golden Stars, in their second Group B AFF Cup match.
BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysia now face an uphill climb in the Group B of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, having fallen to a 1-0 defeat to Vietnam in their second group match. After holding off the Golden Stars throughout most of the match, a brief lapse in concentration in the 79th minute saw them concede a goal by midfielder Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng.
It was to no one's surprise that Malaysia head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee opted for a more defensive approach, fielding Hazwan Bakri as the lone striker, and playing with a five-man midfield. Darren Lok was benched with Fakri Saarani fielded as the additional midfielder. However Irfan Fazail was benched, with Shahrul Saad pushed up into his place. Ronny Harun took Shahrul's place in the defence.
Vietnam head coach Nguyễn Hữu Thắng meanwhile made few changes to the side that beat Myanmar 2-1 on Sunday, picking Le Cong Vinh and Nguyen Van Quyet in attack and maintaining Tran Nguyen Manh as the man between the sticks.
The weather seemed to take its toll on both teams' players, as they laboured to play under the hot sun. 30 minutes in, no shot on nor off target has been registered. Baddrol Bakhtiar had a shot went into the net, but he took it in frustration at an earlier whistle by referee Charymurat Kurbanov, and he was booked for his troubles.
The first moment of note only came five minutes before the halftime. A through pass to Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng left him with goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat to beat, but a last-ditch tackle by Ronny dispossessed the midfielder and saved Malaysia's hides.
Lương Xuân Trường tries from outside just before halftime, but his shot cleared the crossbar. But despite the late first half pressure, the scoreline at halftime was 0-0.
Vietnam turned up the heat at the start of the second half. Two minutes in, the Golden Stars could have gone in front. A short pass from the left of the Malaysia penalty box by Ngô Hoàng Thịnh could not be finished by Đinh Thanh Trung with a simple tap-in.
In the 51st minute, Malaysia's rising star Syazwan Zainon attempted a volley at the edge of the Vietnam box, but his well-struck try was too close to goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh.
Later Hazwan struck a half-volley following Amri Yahyah's long diagonal pass, but the Vietnam goalkeeper managed to palm his attempt out.
With 25 minutes to go in the match, Kim Swee opted for a two-man attack again, taking off the uneffective Baddrol Bakhtiar for forward Darren Lok.
In the 73rd minute, Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng found himself with the ball inside the Malaysia penalty area, but rushed his shot and blazed it over the bar.
The first goal of the match finally came in the 79th minute, after poor clearance and defending by Malaysia's defence gifted the ball to Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng in the box, who then slotted the ball past Fahmi and into the far bottom corner.
In the end, almost 80 minutes of relatively good work in the match was undone in a brief lapse of concentration, and Malaysia now face a tough time having to ensure a win against co-hosts Myanmar in their last group match. Worse still, Syazwan had to be carried off injured towards the end of the match.
But for the Golden Stars, they now have a good chance of finishing the group stage with a perfect record, having beaten Myanmar and Malaysia, and with qualifications winner Cambodia to play in their last group match.
Malaysia: Fahmi (GK), Davies, Shahrul, Ronny, Rizal, Shahrom, Baddrol (Lok 66'), Fakri (Veenod 58'), Amri (C), Syazwan (Zaquan 81'), Hazwan.
Vietnam: Nguyen Manh (GK), Van Hoan, Dinh Luat, Hoang Thinh, Trong Hoang, Xuan Truong (Vu Minh Tuan 90+4'), Ngoc Hai, Van Thanh, Thanh Trung (Thanh Luong 53'), Cong Vinh (C), Van Quyet (Công Phượng 62')