SINGAPORE - Malaysia got their Suzuki Cup campaign off to a winning start on Monday (Dec 6) evening with a fuss-free, 3-1 win over Cambodia in a Group B clash at the Bishan Stadium.
They took the lead in the 24th minute when Safawi Rasid fired home a penalty after Akhyar Rashid was felled in the box.
But Tan Cheng Hoe's men struggled to assert their dominance on the regional minnows, and lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
In the 61st minute, however, Johor Darul Takzim winger Akhyar doubled their lead by coolly finishing off a counter-attack.
Two substitutes combined in the 78th minute to put the game to bed.
A driving run by 19-year-old striker Luqman Hakim - who plays for KV Kortrijk in Belgium's top division - set up Kogileswaran Raj to finish home emphatically.
Sath Rosib pulled one back for the Cambodians from a penalty of their own in the 90th minute, but the strike proved academic.
While Tan will be happy with his side's three points, there are issues for the coach to address, such as the poor performances of big-name stars Junior Eldstal and Guilherme de Paula.
Half-Swedish midfielder Eldstal was replaced in the 26th minute by Mukhairi Ajmal after appearing to struggle with the pace of the game.
Brazil-born striker de Paula, meanwhile, was ineffective leading the line and displayed his unhappiness at being replaced in the 64th minute by Luqman.
De Paula kicked a water bottle as he trudged off the pitch, refused to acknowledge the 20-odd Malaysian fans who had cheered him on despite his display, and threw a second bottle at his own bench after heading straight to the dressing room.
Malaysia kicked off their Suzuki Cup without goalkeeper Khairulazhan Khalid and striker Faisal Halim, who tested positive for Covid-19 and have been isolating. Half-Belgian defender Dion Cools, meanwhile, has not arrived in Singapore.
The Harimau Malaya are looking for their second Asean Football Federation Championship, to add on their sole win in 2010.
The other teams in Group B are defending champions Vietnam, Indonesia and Laos.