Penalty by Bahrain’s Helal downs Harimau Malaya

A penalty converted by Bahrain substitute player Abdulla Yusuf Helal at the end of the second Group E match of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers tonight was enough to sink all hopes of Malaysia pulling off a surprise against Bahrain as the hosts went down 1-2 at Bukit Jalil National Stadium tonight.

Helal’s penalty in the 81st minute was awarded by Tajikistan referee Sadullo Gulmurodi after Malaysian keeper Mohd Farizal Marlias brought down Ali Jaafar Madan in the penalty box.

Malaysia’s naturalised player Mohamadou Sumareh had earlier put Malaysia ahead in the 55th minute only for Bahrain’s Ali Abdula Haram to equalise two minutes later.

Playing in front of over 63,000 local fans, Malaysia dominated the first half with a series of attacks that Bahrain worked hard to absorb.

The national team managed to threaten the visitors as early as the fifth minute with a long ball by Ahmad Khuzaimi Piee that was delivered right to Junior Eldstal’s but quick thinking by Bahrain keeper Sayed Mohamed Abbas managed to save the visiting team the blushes. 

Undeterred, Malaysia continued to attack, with strikers Muhammad Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Darren Lok and Junior all creating chances to put Malaysia ahead in the first 15 minutes, but Abbas stood firm to keep a clean sheet for his team.

Winger Muhammad Akhyar Abdul Rashid came close to scoring in the 31st minute after he slipped past the offside trap after receiving a pass from Mohamed Syamer Kutty Abba, only to see his shot blocked by Abbas. 

Both teams started the second half aggressively, with Bahrain’s Komail Hasan Alaswad sending a long blistering shot testing Mohd Farizal in the 46th minute. Then in the 55th minute, Mohamadou managed to put Malaysia ahead by tapping in a cross by Ahmad Khuzaimi.

Stung into action by the goal, Bahrain equalised two minutes later through Ali Abdula Haram goal courtesy of a cross from the right of the field.

With the match locked 1-1, both teams redoubled their attacks, bringing in several substitutes, but were unable to create any opportunity to get ahead, until the ill-timed foul that led to the penalty in the 81st minute. 

Bahrain’s win sends them to the top of Group E with six points, with Malaysia and Turkmenistan both with three points in second and third, and Bangladesh last without a single point.

To keep their Asian Cup dream alive, Malaysia must beat Bangladesh in the last match at the National Stadium next Tuesday, while Bahrain will take on Turkmenistan at the same venue on the same day. — Bernama