KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 – Penang international Quentin Cheng came off the bench to play an inspiring role for Malaysia in their 1-0 win over Laos in their opening Group J match of the AFC Under-23 qualifier at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia on Monday.
It was a match Malaysia could have won by a bigger margin but it was another tale of missed chances.
Overrated players like Luqman Hakim Shamsudin failed to make an impact and it will be a tough call in the remaining two matches in the group – against Mongolia and Thailand.
The cold weather and the artificial pitch are no excuses for Malaysia’s performance. Coach Brad Malooney certainly has a lot to do.
The match was only three minutes old when Malaysian skipper Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi was already found his name  in Tajikistan referee Sadullo Gulmurodi’s little book for a late tackle on an opponent.
For those who watched the match will agree that Sadullo himself was below par in his match handling.
He allowed play to go on many a time despite late tackles by Laos players. Mukhairi’s early booking did rattle the confidence of the Malaysian players who adopted a cautious approach.
Quentin came off the match in the 66th minute and two-minutes later the score line read Malaysia 1 Laos 0.
The Penang player, whose impressive form for the Panthers in the Super League earned him a national call up, added more life into the game.
His cross from the right was well connected by Nur Azfar Fikri Azhar into the far corner – beating Laos goalkeeper Solasak Thilavong all the way.
Malaysia’s next match is against Mongolia who held mighty Thailand to a 1-1 draw in their opening match.
Luqman and company cannot muff scoring chances if Malaysia wants to qualify for the final round in Uzbekistan from June 1-19, 2022.

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