KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia got their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship campaign off to a winning start when they edged hosts Cambodia 1-0 in a Group A match at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh last night.
Coach Tan Chen Hoe’s men were a bit rattled initially playing in front of 30,000 Cambodian fans and struggled to make much headway against Felix Agustin Gonzalez Dalmas’ team.
However, Malaysia slowly gained a foothold on the match and nearly scored in the 20th minute when Muhammad Safawi Rasid thundered a shot against the Cambodian goal post from inside the box.
Inspired, national striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha opened the scoring 10 minutes later, heading home a perfect cross from skipper Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abd Radzak past Cambodia goalkeeper Um Vichet.
The goal stunned the Angkor Warriors into action as they launched several dangerous attacks to test national goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
But the Malaysians held firm to troop off at half time with a 1-0 lead.
Cheng Hoe made a couple of substitutions in the second half, replacing Norshahrul with Muhammad Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi and Mohamad Zaquan with Ahmad Hazwan Bakri to add more bite upfront.
But Malaysia failed to add to their tally due to profligacy although Muhammad Shahrel and Muhammad Safawi managed to create several chances.
Cambodia were just as blunt upfront and Harimau Malaya managed to hold on for the slim win.
With three points in the bag, Malaysia’s second group outing will be a home match against Myanmar at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Nov 12.
Malaysia won the championship in 2010 under coach Datuk K. Rajagobal when they beat joint hosts Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate in the two-leg final.–BERNAMA