KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian football has every reason to celebrate in the festive month of Syawal after the whopping 7-1 win over Timor Leste in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup preliminary qualification match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The emphatic victory over the 195th ranked Timor-Leste on Friday is the national team’s biggest win in a World Cup qualification match since 1993 when they beat Macau 9-0 in Kuala Lumpur.
The first half proved to be fruitful for Malaysia, whose world ranking is 168, as they scored four goals through La Vere Corbin Ong (11th), Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi (21st), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (42nd) and Safawi Rasid (45th).
In the second half, Timor Leste’s Joao Pedro caught Malaysia napping when he scored off a quick counter attack in the 51st minute but that proved to be the catalyst for more goals from Malaysia as Safawi (58th) and substitutes Faiz Nasir (77th) and Akhyar Rashid (90th) completed an easy win.
One could describe it as the perfect performance as Malaysia showed good technique and coverage of the pitch, and were dangerous with their movements throughout the match which proved quite beyond minnows Timor Leste.
Here are five talking points from the match.
1. Strong line-upDespite the disparity in standard between Malaysia and Timor Leste, the former Kedah coach opted to field a strong line-up against their youthful opponents. It was a mismatch from the start as Malaysia dominated possession and looked dangerous throughout. The 7-1 cushion means that Cheng Hoe can afford to give the reserve players some playing time in the second leg at the same venue on June 11. Even then, the inexperienced Timor Leste side can expect another torrid 90 minutes.
2. Poor pitchMalaysia’s football could have been much more smooth flowing if the playing pitch had been in better condition. An uneven surface affected the rhythm of play. Cheng Hoe, like other coaches, has lamented about the poor pitch conditions. The stadium authorities should ensure that the pitch is maintained properly for the the players and fans to enjoy a good game of football.
3. Relentless ShahrelSyafiq Ahmad’s injury in the 12th minute was a blow to Malaysia and even Cheng Hoe was visibly upset when asked about the striker’s injury. However, the coach can take heart from Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi’s performance as he showed real industry and drive upfront when he came on for Syafiq.
The hard-working 24-year-old substitute was ever willing to help out in defence despite his duties up front. The one goal he scored is not a true reflection of his all-round performance. He could have scored more goal given his many dangerious runs at the opponents’ defence.
4. Akram’s pivotal roleAkram Mahinan’s performance in the middle does not tickle anyone’s fancy but he was pivotal in breaking up Timor Leste’s attacks. His ability to break up plays, read movements and conjure up key passes for Malaysian attacks were things to marvel at. Akram made two key passes for the third and sixth goals. His intelligent play in the middle allowed players like Norshahrul, Shahrel, Akhyar and Safawi more space and time to operate up front.
5. Delightful Sumareh-Davies comboRightback Matthew Davies and winger Mohamadou Sumareh have brought their Pahang form to the national team. Both of them combined well on the right.
Cheng Hoe’s football philosophy sees wingers and fullbacks playing a significant role in developing attacks and both of them showed that they fit in seamlessly with the coach’s tactics. The duo ran rings around Timor Leste leftback Nelson Sarmento.