KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Malaysia beat higher-ranked team Turkmenistan 3-1 in their first Group E match of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here, tonight.
The atmosphere was enlivened by more than 21,000 spectators who last saw the Harimau Malaya play at home in November 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
There was only one change in the national team’s starting line-up from the one that beat Hong Kong 2-0 in an international friendly last Wednesday, namely Mohamad Faisal Abdul Halim coming in place of Muhammad Akhyar Abdul Rashid on the left-wing.
Malaysia dominated the game right from the state, which led to the opening goal by Muhammad Safawi Rasid in the 11th minute.
Arif Aiman Mohd Hanapi’s cross from the left side was not properly dealt with by goalkeeper Mammet Orazmuhammedov, and an unmarked Safawi made no mistake of the opportunity.
Kim Pan Gon’s men continued the onslaught, with striker Darren Lok coming close in the 15th minute, but winger Mohamad Faisal Halim got past the defence before beating Orazmuhammedov on a one-on-one situation just a minute later.
Trailing 2-0, Altymyrat Annadurdyyev’s goal in the 38th minute ignited Turkmenistan’s hopes after the striker’s previous attempts were denied by national goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.
Malaysia extended their lead just before the break with the third goal coming from defender Corbin Ong, who made a solo run before firing a shot past Orazmuhammedov.
Both sides had some great chances in the second half, but no goals were added to the game before referee Omar Mubarak Mazaroua Al Yaqoubi of Oman blew the final whistle. Mohd Faisal was named man of the match.
Turkmenistan is currently ranked 134th in the world while Malaysia is 154th.
With the win tonight, Malaysia top Group E with three points, while Bahrain, who notched a 2-0 victory over Bangladesh earlier, are in second place.