Malaysia fall just short

Malaysia nearly overturned a two-goal deficit but ultimately fell just short of their ambition, losing Tuesday's 2018 World Cup 2019 Asia Cup qualifier to the United Arab Emirates by two goals to one.

Omar Abdulrahman opened the scoring for the visitors in the 22nd minute, before Ahmed Khalil doubled the Gulf side's advantage in the 52nd minute.

In what was a much-improved performance by Ong Kim Swee's side having lost the reverse fixture in September 10-0, the hosts halved the deficit in the 59th minute through Baddrol Bakhtiar.

Despite their second half resurgence, the hosts were unable to find the goal they needed to draw level in the final 30 minutes.

Malaysia had the first real effort on goal in the 16th minute when Fakri Saarani had a shot from distance, but that was about as good as it got for the hosts in the opening stages of the map.

Six minutes later, they fell behind through a defensive error, when Azamuddin Akil's desperate clearance only made it as far as Abdulrahman, who curled a shot into the right-hand corner.

The visitors continued to dominate matters after the half-time break and seven minutes into the second half Khalil took advantage of the high defensive line and ran onto Abdulrahman's chip, which completely flummoxed the Malaysian defense, leaving the Al-Ahli ace with a simple finish.

In recent times, Ong Kim Swee's side have lost their way after going behind, but this match was not one of those occasions.

On the hour mark, captain Rahim's whipped free-kick from the right flank found Bakhtiar unmarked in the UAE box and he made no mistake with a thumping headed finish.

The goal breathed new life in the hosts and for the remainder of the match the remainder of the match it was the UAE who looked the more nervous.

Despite their new-found lease on life, Malaysia were unable to get the second goal their second half performance deserved.

With one match left in qualifying, Malaysia are in fourth place in Group A, five points behind Palestine and two ahead of East Timor.

They take on Saudia Arabia in their final match of the campaign in March next year.