AFC U-16 Championship: Four-goal Luqman stars as Malaysia make emphatic start

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Luqman Hakim was Malaysia’s four-goal hero on Thursday as they made an emphatic start to the AFC U-16 Championship with a 6-2 win over Tajikistan in Group A.

Showing plenty of adventure and endeavour from the opening whistle at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, it was no surprise that the tournament hosts opened the scoring on the half-hour mark.

Following a charge at the Tajikistan defence, Luqman played the ball out right to Najmuddin Akmal before running into the area to receive the return pass and guide a shot past Mukhriddin Hasanov.

Two minutes later, Luqman’s blistering pace saw him break free down the left before he was brought down inside the box by Hasanov, paving the way for Najmuddin to double Malaysia’s lead from the spot.

Luqman was proving to be an absolute livewire leading the attack on his own and made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute, as he got in behind the opposition backline to race onto Umar Hakeem’s clever pass before finding the back of the net.

And, a minute after the restart, the 16-year-old once again beat the offside trap and skipped past the onrushing Hasanov to slot into the unguarded net and complete his hat-trick.

Despite already assured of the match ball come the final whistle, Luqman was still not done and notched his fourth of the evening seven minutes after the hour mark, showcasing a real striker’s instinct as he clinically fired in off the post after being released by Alif Mutalib’s slide-rule pass.

Tajikistan did pull one back five minutes later when Sharifbek Rahmatov lashed an emphatic effort past Sikh Izhan Nazrel from the spot, after Syukur Fariz and Alias Alan had combined to foul Rustam Soirov inside the box.

Malaysia managed to reclaim their five-goal cushion with a penalty of their own in the 76th minute as Alif fired straight down the middle, although it was not without controversy as substitute Amirul Azzim Ruzki did look to be an offside position when he went down under the slightest of touches by Muhammadrasul Litfullaev.

There was still time for one final piece of drama and, unfortunately for Malaysia, a fine display was soured as Sikh Izhan was shown a straight red with just three minutes remaining after inexplicably rushing off his line and planting his studs into the chest of Soirov.

With Malaysia having used all three substitutes, centre-back Hariz Mansor had to go into goal and although he did remarkably well to keep out Islom Zairov’s penalty, the Tajikistan playmaker made amends by converting on the rebound to hand his side a second consolation effort.

MALAYSIA: Sikh Izhan Nazrel, Raimi Shamsul (Alias Alan 61’), Hariz Mansor, Firdaus Ramli, Ahmad Zikri Khalili, Syukur Fariz, Firdaus Kaironnisam, Alif Mutalib, Najmuddin Akmal (Amirul Azzim Ruzki 72’), Umar Hakeem (Harith Naem 65’), Luqman Hakim.

TAJIKISTAN: Mukhriddin Hasanov, Muhammadrasul Litfullaev, Isroil Kholov, Shahrom Nazarov, Jonibek Sharipov, Sharifbek Rahmatov (Muhammadali Azizboev 75’), Nidoyor Zabirov, Ozodbek Pandziev (Ibrohim Zokirov 78’), Islom Zairov, Amadoni Kamolov, Rustam Soirov.