Double brace Makhbout and Fabio de Lima meant that Malaysia’s hopes of restarting the qualification in positive fashion went up in smoke.
It was a tall order going into this World Cup 2022/Asian Cup 2023 qualifier against United Arab Emirates (UAE) and so it proved as Malaysia suffered their third loss in Group G after promising so much but at the end, delivered very little to suggest a different outcome to the rest of the campain.
A match which saw the home side in complete control at Zabeel Stadium does not augur well with matches against Vietnam and Thailand still to come. A lacklustre performance with a non-functioning midfield made it very comfortable for UAE throughout the match and they now look set to take a stranglehold
Tan Cheng Hoe opted for a debut for Dion Cools at the heart of Malaysia’s defence alongside Aidil Zafuan with Liridon Krasniqi and Guilherme de Paula also getting their competitive debuts in national colours. Meanwhile Bert van Marwijk only selected Fabio de Lima from his trio of naturalised options.
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It was all UAE from the first whistle with the home side dominating possession but without causing too much trouble for Malaysia’s defence. But it was a false sense of security as van Marwijk’s side picked and chose their timing to unpick their opponent.
As early as the 7th minute, a loose pass from Krasniqi led to the first opening of the match with Khalil Ibrahim bearing down on goal but Farizal Marlias came out on top of that duel to parry the ball out for a corner kick. With Malaysia’s backline looking increasingly unsure at the start of the match, UAE took the opportunity to break the deadlock. Abdella Ramadan was given the time and space in the 19th minute to thread a long pass to Ali Makhbout.
Aidil failed to track the run of Makhbout and the UAE record scorer deftly lifted the ball past an advancing Farizal to give the home side the lead they so richly deserve for such was their control of the game. UAE’s direct vertical play was causing Malaysia plenty of problems with neither Aidil and Cools looking switched on to the runners beyond them as well as the lack of pressing on the likes of Ramadan and Ali Hassan.
Malaysia improved after the drinks break with Nor Azam Azih switching roles with Syamer Kutty Abba and suddenly the Tigers were on the front foot, operating more in the opponent half and generally having more touches on the ball than they did in the first 25 minutes.
The first clear chance created by the away side came in the 43rd minute when a good cross swung in found de Paula unmarked inside the penalty box but the striker’s connection was so bad that the ball headed straight back to the flanks.
An early change a couple of mintues in the second half saw Syafiq Ahmad coming on for Nor Azam and that brought about more support for de Paula but as well a greater energy and impetus for Malaysia as they set about looking to replicate some measure of threat that they managed to produced towards the end of the first half.
With Safawi Rasid looking a pale shadow of his great self, Luqman Hakim was thrusted into action, earning the teenager his first outing with the senior national team. However with UAE continuing to control the game, the Kortrijk player was left to do more tracking work than offering any attacking threat.
Yet Farizal remaind the busier of the two keepers in the second period, the Johor Darul Ta’zim stopper producing a brilliant one-handed stop to deny de Lima in the 64th minute and again Makhbout in the 81st minute to keep Malaysia in the hunt for something in the game.
The second goal for the home side finally arrive in the 83rd minute with de Lima planting a curving shot past Farizal. With Malaysia flooding forward to get something from the game, the floodgates well and truly opened late in the match as first Makhbout and then de Lima got their brace to seal a comprehensive win over Malaysia.