BUKIT JALIL: Liverpool ended their tour of the Far East and Australia on a low while a hastily-assembled Malaysian Selection made it a night to cherish when they held the English Premier League giants to a 1-1 draw.
National coach Dollah Salleh’s wish came true after his makeshift side, who had barely four days of preparation, did not succumbed to a goal fest and instead matched their more illustrious opponents to even take the lead in front of 50,000 fans at the National Sadium in Bukit Jalil.
Dollah started the match with his strongest line-up using all five foreign players from the M-League – Liberians Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh (PKNS FC) and Zah Rahan Krangar (Felda United), Brazilians Chad Souza and Thiago Junior (Perak) and Cameroon’s Vincent Bikana (Terengganu).
As expected, Liverpool started off brightly to peg the Malaysians in their own half with their high pressing game but it was the home side who opened accounts through Wleh with a clinical finish from inside the box in the 13th minute.
The PKNS striker scored against the run of play after collecting Souza’s flick-on from Nasir Basharudin’s pass before shooting pass the onrushing Reds’ goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
Stunned by the goal, the Merseysiders doubled their effort for the equaliser but were let down by poor finishing. The Malaysian defence comprising skipper Razman Roslan, Thiago, Bikana, Zubir Azmi and goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid did well to contain the Red’s onslaught.
Dollah’s decision to opt for a compact game continued to frustrate the visitors before winger Jordon Ibe’s class made the difference when he conjured the equaliser after turning defender Zubir and firing a thunderous shot to the roof of the net in the 28th minute.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Liverpool kept pressing for more goals but the Malaysian defence proved to be a hard nut to crack.
The match, despite being a friendly, proved to be a bruising encounter with Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva left bloodied with a cut to his right eye after clashing with Zah Rahan during a tussle for the ball.
Liverpool wrested control of the match but with goalkeeper Khairul Azhan in his elements they just could not break through. Khairul pulled off a double save in the 41st minute when Belgian Divock Origi’s shot was parried and then his subsequent header was punched away.
Liverpool continued where they left off in the second half with their relentless attack but they lacked the spark upfront.
Centreback Dejan Lovren came close to putting the Reds in front but his header in the 58th minute went high and the script remained the same until the final whistle.
The result does not augur well for Brendan Rodgers’ side who start their Premier League campaign on Aug 9 against Stoke. They had started off their tour on a high with a 4-0 beating of Thailand All-Stars. They then beat A-League clubs Brisbane Roar (2-1) and Adelaide United (2-0).