A tie with the Thais won’t do

Leading the way: Captain and midfielder Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi is one of the Malaysian players who have impressed in Mongolia. — FAM

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Under-23 team have made it a point to win their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Thailand today at all costs - even if a draw will be enough for them to reach the final round in Uzbekistan next June.

Coach Brad Maloney has told his charges to go into the game at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, with their usual approach and come out victorious.

“Just like the first two games, we’ll stick to our principles and play with guts. We know Thailand are the favourites and we have much respect for them, considering the quality of their players,” said Maloney.

“But we’re going in with the mindset to win.”

Malaysia are top of the group with six points after beating Laos (1-0) and Mongolia (1-0). Second-placed Thailand have four after drawing with Mongolia (1-1) and beating Laos (3-0).

The Harimau Muda can expect a taxing tie with the tricky Thais, who boast some players who are plying their trade in Europe like defenders Jonathan Khemdee (Odense Boldklub, Denmark) and Owen Charlie Reinat (Thes Sport, Belgium); and midfielders Benjamin Davis (Oxford, England) and Thanawat Suengchitthawon (Leicester, England).

But their dangerman so far has been nippy right winger Jakkit Palapon, who has scored two goals in the qualifying campaign.

As for Malaysia, their trump card has proven to be striker Nur Azfar Fikri Azhar who has plundered both their goals.

The others who have impressed are captain and midfielder Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi, centrebacks Ahmad Zikri Khalil, Harith Haiqal Adam, Azrin Afiq Rusmini and fullback Quentin Cheng.

The good form of the backline, who have yet to concede after two games, bodes well for Malaysia as they brace for a stern test against the speedy Thai strikeforce.

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