Malaysia relive same old nightmare

AMMAN (Jordan) • It was the worst kind of deja vu.

Just when Malaysia's interim manager Ong Kim Swee thought that his side had shut the floodgates, they re-opened in their World Cup football qualifier against Palestine.

The Tigers fell 0-6 - the exact scoreline when Palestine thrashed them on home soil at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Only three starters from that June encounter retained their places in the first XI - captain Safiq Rahim as well as forwards Amri Yahyah and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri.

Yet, it was more of the same.

"We definitely did not expect to get thrashed again," Ong told Malaysia's news agency Bernama.

"This is a very bad margin.

"We tried to compete but we were far off. The most important thing now is to look at the match against United Arab Emirates (on Tuesday) and make changes.

"We have to redeem ourselves and the players must buck up."

Ong replaced manager Dollah Salleh following Malaysia's 10-0 rout by UAE. He had also overseen a 1-2 loss to Saudi Arabia and a 1-0 victory over Timor Leste.

Those improved performances raised expectations but Malaysia once again paid for their lack of focus. They conceded three goals in the space of eight minutes before half-time, starting with Jonathan Zorrilla's 37th-minute opener.

By the 58th minute, Ahmad Abu Nahyeh had his hat-trick.

Substitute Tamer Salah (88th) and Jaka Ihbeisheh (90th) completed the mauling.

"It was difficult to handle the long passes and we lost a lot of the aerial ball challenges… especially in the final 10 minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half," Ong added.

"I thought we defended well from the start. We had some chances too but the lack of concentration cost us. The second goal, which came almost immediately, killed it."

Malaysia have now conceded 26 goals in just six qualifiers. Only Bhutan (-42) have a more inferior goal difference in Asian qualifying.

The Tigers remain fourth in Group A on four points, nine adrift of leaders Saudi Arabia. UAE have 10 points while Palestine have nine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Malaysia relive same old nightmare'. Print Edition | Subscribe