THE National Under-23 (U-23) football squad suffered their first loss in their U23 Asian Cup Championship campaign when they lost 1-4 to defending champions South Korea in their opening Group C match in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Thursday.
South Korea, coached by Hwang Sun-Hong, were in a class of their own, patiently waiting for their chances to score and capitalising on the national junior squad’s mistakes at Stadium Lokomotiv.
The Malaysians, who were trying to redeem themselves after a disappointing finish at the recent 31st South East Asian (SEA) Games, began the match defensively, absorbing attack after attack that finally led to South Korea’s first goal in the 31st minute, a header by South Korean captain Lee Sang-Min off a corner kick.
South Korea’s second goal came just four minutes into the second half, when Kim Tae-Hwan unleashed a blistering shot from outside the penalty area to beat national goalkeeper Muhammad Rahadiazli Rahalim.
Behind 0-2, Malaysia had a resurgence and nearly scored, but team captain Muhammad Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi’s attempt went astray after beating goalkeeper Goh Dong-Min.
Muhammad Mukhairi, however, was successful in getting his name on the scoresheet in the 83rd minute after calmly slotting in a beautiful cross by Nik Akif Syahiran Nik Mat.
In their haste to chase of an equaliser, the Malaysians dropped their guard and were punished by substitute Cho Young-Wook, who slotted in two goals in the final phase of the match.
South Korea now leads Group C, while the other Group C match between Thailand and Vietnam is still underway at Stadium Bunyodkor, Tashkent.
Malaysia will play Thailand this Sunday before ending the group round against 31st SEA Games gold medallists, Vietnam on June 8 in their quest to finish in the top two spots to qualify for the quarterfinals.
The national U-23 squad created history by qualifying for the quarterfinals in the 2018 edition in China, where they lost 1-2 to South Korea. — Bernama / pic source FAM