PETALING JAYA: Malaysia have qualified for the 2023 Asian Cup Finals on merit for the first time in 42 years following a thumping 4-1 win over Bangladesh at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
Malaysian coach Kim Pan Gon left out first choice goalkeeper Farizal Marlias from the starting eleven for the must-win final Group E match in the Asian Cup qualifying campaign and gave Ahmad Syihan Hazmi Mohamed his first international appearance.
Farizal came under heavy criticism for his mistake in conceding a penalty, which led to the 1-2 defeat to Bahrain last Saturday (June 12).
The almost 53,000-strong crowd, which included Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, did not have to wait long as Safawi Rasid put Malaysia in the lead in the 16th minute through a penalty.
However, a momentary lapse in concentration saw Bangladesh pull one back through Mohd Ibrahim in the 31st minute.
Dion Cools celebrated his first goal for Malaysia in the 38th minute after rifling in a shot that Bangladeshi goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico failed to catch cleanly.
Malaysia continued their pressing game after the break and quickly went 3-1 up through a header from Syafiq Ahmad in the 47th minute.
Darren Lok slotted in the fourth goal for Malaysia in the 73rd minute to cap a historic night for Malaysia.
Malaysia thus finished Group E with six points, having beaten Turkmenistan 3-1 in their opening match on June 8.
It will only be the fourth appearance for Malaysia in the Asian Cup Finals.
The last time Malaysia qualified on merit for the Asian Cup Finals was in 1980 in Kuwait.
Malaysia also featured in the Asian Cup Finals in 2007 but was the co-host along with Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.