Malaysia moved up to second in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Group G, as they beat rivals Indonesia by two goals to nil. Safawi Rasid scored both the goals via stunning strikes to help his side win the three points. Here are five talking points from this one.
#1 Sumareh’s struggles
Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng-Hoe was handed a massive blow before the match itself, with frontman Syafiq Ahmad ruled out due to suspension. Syafiq had been Harimau Malaya’s in-form forward and had even scored in the competition earlier against Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
There was a replacement ready on the bench for Syafiq in the form of veteran striker Norshahul Idlan Talaha. However, surprisingly, Tan Cheng-How decided to deploy Mohamadou Sumareh, a winger, up-front with Akhyar Rashid and Safawi Rasid playing either side of him.
Sumareh’s struggles were evident early on as the winger-turned-striker failed to hold the ball for his teammates. He was constantly dragged deep into midfield or out on the wings, requiring one of his teammates to fill up space. The head coach brought on Norshahrul in the second half in place of Akhyar, allowing Sumareh to move to his preferred position and the change in his game was visible!
#2 Stunning Safawi
Safawi Rasid went through the FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Thailand without having much of an impact. Thankfully, Malaysia did win that one courtesy of a Brendan Gan masterclass, with the midfielder scoring and assisting one goal each in a two-one win.
Nevertheless, Safawi proved his credentials as Malaysia’s talisman once again, when he gave them the lead with a stunning free-kick against Indonesia. The winger earned the free-kick himself after he was fouled close to the box by Yanto Basna. He stepped up to take the set-piece and sent the ball flying into the right corner. The goalkeeper failed to get a touch despite being fully stretched.
Safawi scored his second goal shortly after the seventy-minute mark. The winger pounced on a blunder by Indonesia captain Basna, before smashing the ball past Ridho in goal. He had chances to complete his hattrick as well but was denied by the post and then the goalkeeper.
#3 Wasteful Indonesia
Indonesia had suffered four back-to-back losses in their FIFA World Cup Asian second-round qualifiers up until now. Tim Garuda lost once to each of their four group rivals – Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and UAE. Their poor run even saw head coach Simon McMenemy sacked and replaced by Yeyen Tumena on an interim basis.
Febri Hariyadi was given the perfect opportunity to give Yeyen an early boost after he was sent clean through on goal. However, despite no opposition player in sight, the forward shot close to the goalkeeper Khairul Azhan, allowing the latter to make a save.
Febri was not the only guilty party to waste a good chance for the away side. A dangerous free-kick in the box saw both sets of players scramble. The ball eventually fell to Greg Nwokolo at the back-post, however, he could not convert from close range. On this occasion, Malaysian defender Aidil Zafuan had cleared his effort off the line. As a result, Indonesia went into the break trailing by a goal to nil.
#4 Penalty problems
Despite coming into the match on the back of four defeats, Indonesia started to assert early dominance over their rivals. However, the two teams interchanged roles shortly after, with Tim Garuda now being pressed into their half.
Nevertheless, they did have their fair share of chances to level the match in the first half, which they failed to take. They were, however, given the chance to pull one goal back late on in the match, when substitute goalkeeper Farizal Marlias fouled Febri Hariyadi.
Substitute Osas Saha stepped up to take the penalty. He shot towards his left, which was read by Farizal and subsequently saved. From then on, Malaysia piled on the pressure as they went looking for a late third goal to improve their goal difference.
#5 Malaysia march on but Indonesia stutter again
Malaysia were the favourites going into this particular FIFA World Cup Qualifier. Harimau Malaya had beaten Thailand in their previous match while Indonesia had lost four on the bounce. And in the end, the result proved to be of no surprise with both teams getting exactly what was expected from the match.
A win means that Malaysia are now up to second in their group with nine points, moving past Thailand who could only draw their match against Vietnam. They are also currently among the four best runners-up in this round, a position which would see them qualify for the third round and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, should they retain it.
Things go from bad to worse for Indonesia, however, he lost their fifth straight match in the group. As a result, they have been officially eliminated from the third round of qualifiers.