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After a creditable win over Cambodia in the last match, Malaysia had to toiled for long period of the match before coming from behind to eventually win the match. For large parts of the match, the Malayan Tigers struggled to find creativity to break through what was a vastly inferior opponent.

In truth, that could be pointed at the starting XI that Tan Cheng Hoe selected for the match. Mahali Jasuli and Syamer Kutty Abba were paired in the centre of midfield, with neither player known for their ability to be a playmaker. 

Without Nazmi Faiz in the middle, a lot was relied on the wing players but Syazwan Zainon and Shahrel Fikri were conspicuous in their anonymity in the match. That forced the returning Norshahrul Idlan Talaha to drop deep to try to create but was often crowded out easily.

So poor were Malaysia in the first half that Sri Lanka were able to capitalise by opening the scoring in the 29th minute when Asela Madushan sped past Irfan Zakaria to stab home a rebound after Hafizul Hakim had parried one shot from the right.

In the second half, Tan introduced Mohamadou Sumareh in place of Shahrel and the debutant would quickly be the most feared match on the pitch. In fact, it was his combination with familiar faces in Matthew Davies that produced the equaliser for another one of the Pahang connection.

Sumareh released Davies on the right hand side and the latter’s cross was fumbled Sujan Perera for Norshahrul to have the easiest of task of passing the ball into an empty net in the 65th minute. Stunned by the equaliser, the match quickly swung the way of the away side.

Adam Nor Azlin headed in Malaysia’s second goal of the night when he nodded in from a Syazwan Andik corner kick, Sumareh forced an own goal by Sri Lanka for Malaysia’s third before find the back of the net in added time to cap off an encouraging debut for him in national colours.

There will be plenty for Tan to mull over on the flight back home as Malaysia will be heading straight to the airport after the match. The substitutions played their part in Malaysia recovering from being behind in the first half as he prepares the team for a tougher opponent in Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday.


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