Malaysia match abandoned

Nazirul Naim (right) and goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi of Malaysia run for cover after a smoke flare landed on the pitch near the end of their match against Saudi Arabia.
Nazirul Naim (right) and goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi of Malaysia run for cover after a smoke flare landed on the pitch near the end of their match against Saudi Arabia.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Flares thrown by fans onto pitch after Tigers claw back some pride against Saudi Arabia

A traumatic week for Malaysia football ended with yet another embarrassment for the beleaguered national team last night.

On the pitch, they salvaged some pride when they went down fighting against Saudi Arabia in their 2018 World Cup qualifying tie at Shah Alam Stadium.

However, there might be further trouble for the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), after fans threw smoke flares onto the pitch moments before full-time, causing the match to be abandoned with the score at 2-1 in Saudi's favour.

Before that unsavoury end to the match, Malaysia appeared determined to erase memories of their 0-10 capitulation against United Arab Emirates in their 2018 World Cup Group A qualifier last week.

That humiliating defeat in Abu Dhabi - the biggest loss in the history of Malaysian football - prompted coach Dollah Salleh to hand in his resignation after the team returned home.

In the wake of that heavy loss, the country's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also publicly castigated the FAM for the result, and even threatened to suspend the association should it continue to "recycle the same lame excuses".

That forced FAM president Tengku Abdullah Ahmad Shah to announce on Monday that he would be stepping down from his post.

Interim coach Ong Kim Swee set up an ultra-defensive strategy for Malaysia in an attempt at ensuring damage limitation against one of Asia's traditional football powerhouses.

The home team succeeded in the first half, frustrating the Saudis by packing bodies in their own penalty area, forming a deep defensive line that crowded out the Saudi strikers.

Against all odds, Malaysia took the lead in the 71st minute, as forward Amri Yahyah broke forward down the left flank before sending in a looping cross.

The ball was eventually knocked back to captain Safiq Rahim, whose shot squeezed past the Saudi goalkeeper Khalid Sharahili.

With two minutes, however, the visitors drew level through a crisp shot from midfielder Taseer Al Jassim. They then took the lead just three minutes later, when Mohammed Al-Sahlawi's looping header found the net.

In Group E action, both Syria and Japan registered big victories to stay on track to advance to the next World Cup qualifying round.

Syria thrashed Cambodia 6-0 in Phnom Penh, with striker Omar Kharbin netting twice in the first half as the Middle East side cruised to victory.

In Teheran, Iran, Japan were also rampant in defeating Afghanistan 6-0, with Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki both netting twice.

Thailand lost their 100 per cent start to the qualifying campaign, but managed to salvage a 2-2 draw against Iraq after going 0-2 down at home.

They remain top of Group F with two wins and a draw, while Iraq are second, three points back but with a game in hand.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline 'Malaysia match abandoned'. Print Edition | Subscribe