Hot football property Safawi Rasid’s deadly left foot gave Malaysia a 2-0 win over Indonesia as Harimau Malaya roared to second spot in Group G in the World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 qualifiers.
The win over Garuda came in the wake of Malaysia’s 2-1 win over Thailand at the same venue last week. Malaysia now has nine points from five matches with Vietnam on top with 11 points after a scoreless draw with Thailand at home. Thailand slipped to third spot on eight points.
The night belonged to Dungun-born Safawi who plays for six-time Malaysia Super League and Malaysia Cup champions Johor Darul Takzim. He was voted the Most Valuable Player in the recent national football awards.
It was a slow start for Harimau Malaya as Indonesia with a new look team under caretaker coach Yeyen Tumena posing a lot of problems to the home side.
Garuda would have taken the lead after 21 minutes but goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid managed to save Febri Hariyadi’s attempt in a one on one situation but paid a heavy price when he injured himself and had to be replaced by Farizal Marlias.
Soon after on 29 minutes Malaysia grabbed the lead and it was dead ball specialist who got his name into the score-sheet with a delightful left footer that beat Muhammad Ridho all the way. Yanto Basna gave away the freekick.
In the 35th minute the Malaysian backline was in sixes and sevens from a freekick. Farizal could not make a clean save and in the ensuing melee skipper Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak stopped the ball from going in with a clearance in the six-yard box.
It was a nightmare outing for Yanto Basna in Bukit Jalil when he failed to cut off Safawi. Safawi shrugged off Yanto’s challenge and cut in before planting another left footer into the roof of the net on 72 minutes. Malaysia 2-0.
Indonesia had a great opportunity to reduce the deficit 10 minutes later when Farizal felled Hariyadi inside the box. However, Farizal redeemed himself when he dived to his right to save Osas Saha’s spot kick.
Safawi netted two but he also missed three other opportunities with his gifted left foot. He was denied a hat-trick in the 86th minute but the ball clipped the right upright and went out of play.
Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe said: “”We did not do well in the first half but upped the ante after the break. It is important three points for us. Each of the remaining matches is important for our campaign.
“We rode on our mental strength and to secure the win over Indonesia is a good end to the year.”
Malaysia will resume its World Cup/Asia Cup campaign in March next year. Harimau Malaya plays the United Arab Emirates in Dubai on March 26 before the home match against Vietnam on March 31. The match against Thailand in Bangkok is on June 9. RIZAL ABDULLAH