The Whites simply too four-midable for Harimau Malaya

by BERNAMA / pic credit: FAM

KUALA LUMPUR – The national football team’s trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ended with a dismal defeat again as The Whites trounced the Harimau Malaya 4-0 in their Group G second-round 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying match in Dubai early this morning.

At least it wasn’t as humiliating as the 10-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of the same opponents in Abu Dhabi back in 2015.

Today, Malaysia had no answer to the lethal attacking partnership of Ali Mabkhout and Fabio De Lima, who notched two goals each for the UAE at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai for their second win over the Harimau Malaya in this qualifying campaign. 

Although head coach Tan Cheng Hoe named his strongest starting 11 by fielding all his three naturalised and heritage players, the Harimau Malaya struggled to get their game going and the difference between the two teams was clear for everyone to see right from the first whistle, with the Malaysian players more passive compared to their opponents, who were cool, composed and confident.

The one bright spot for Malaysia, though, was the heroic display of goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Marlias, who was called into action as early as in the seventh minute to parry a powerful shot by the UAE’s Khalil Ibrahim.

Ali, who scored a brace when the UAE edged Malaysia 2-1 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil in September 2019, again terrorised the Harimau Malaya backline when he beat skipper Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak to a through ball before lobbing it over the onrushing Mohd Farizal for the opening goal in the 19th minute.

Malaysia had a glorious chance to make it 1-1 at the tail end of the first half but naturalised player Guilherme De Paula misdirected his header, allowing the UAE to go into the break 1-0 up.

As Malaysia continued to struggle to create chances upfront, Cheng Hoe made two substitutions by bringing on Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad and youngster Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, but the duo failed to make their presence felt and it was left to Mohd Farizal to single-handedly thwart the UAE’s attack.

But there was only so much the over-worked Mohd Farizal could do as he was finally beaten again in the 83rd minute when De Lima curled in a shot from the right into the top left corner.

As fatigue set in, Ali and De Lima each netted their second goals of the night in injury time to hand the UAE their third win and, thus, move up to second spot in Group G with nine points. 

Malaysia, meanwhile, dropped to fourth despite having nine points – the same as the UAE and third-placed Thailand.

The Harimau Malaya, who have a vastly inferior goal difference, will take on Vietnam on June 11 before wrapping up their Group G fixtures against Thailand on June 15.

Meanwhile, in another Group G match today, basement side Indonesia held Thailand to a 2-2 draw at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.