CHANGSHU: The national Under-23 squad have reignited their slim hopes of a ticket to the quarter-finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship when they held mighty Jordan to a 1-1 draw during the second Group C match at the Changshu Stadium earlier today.
The young national side, coached by Ong Kim Swee, now have a point after going down 1-4 in their opening group match against 2013 champions Iraq on Wednesday, and now they will have to pull off nothing less than a win against middle eastern giants Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Kushan to stand a chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
In the second group match played earlier today, Kim Swee made two changes to the starting line-up by replacing goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal Chek Kasim with Haziq Nadzli while Akhyar Abdul Rashid took forward N. Thanabalan’s place after the latter’s hamstring problem picked up during the loss to Iraq three days ago.
There was no other way except to play for all three points in today’s match to better their chances of advancing from the group stage but as expected, Jordan, who took third place in 2013 were no pushovers.
Jordan, coached by Iain Richard Brunskill threatened the Malaysian goalposts as early as the 10th minute through an effort by Ahmed Fawzi Mahmoud.
Malaysia who tried to match the Jordanians fast paced game had their best chance in the 13th minute but Jafri Firdaus Chew’s weak shot was easily saved by goalkeeper Rafat Khaldoon Al Rabie.
However Malaysia’s defense was caught out by a long ball for Jordan’s opening goal by Ward Helal Khalid who managed to elude and deceive Haziq.
But Kim Swee’s boys did not falter and instead pressed on in search of an equaliser and things began to look up when a penalty was awarded in Malaysia’s favour after Saed Ahmad Salameh was judged to have brought Akhyar down by the referee.
Safawi Rasid, who scored the consolation goal against Iraq duly stepped up to convert the penalty and he scored from the spot to level the score in the 43rd minute.
The national side were reinvigorated after the goal and showed more determination and confidence going forward, with Safawi Rasid wasting a golden opportunity to put Malaysia in in front when his shot hit the side netting, while Akhyar’s effort hit the goalpost.
Malaysia could have won the match but once again the goalpost was in the way when Matthew Davies came close in the 73rd minute.
Jordan who became more desperate for the win after holding Saudi Arabia to a 2-2 draw, also pressurized the Malaysian defense but nothing came of it as both sides had to settle for a draw.