AMMAN – Malaysia’s mini-revival in qualification for the 2018 World Cup was brought to a shuddering halt at the Amman International Stadium on Thursday evening as they lost 6-0 to Palestine for the second time this year.
A series of individual errors allowed Ahmad Abu Nahyeh to score a hat-trick and cost the visitors any chance of exorcising the ghosts of the original thrashing when the two teams met in June.
The goal difference for the Tigers after six games in Group A of the second round of qualification is minus 24, a sorry statistic that puts the team’s defensive issues on display for all to see.
It could have been different. There was determination and commitment from Malaysia under their caretaker coach Ong Kim Swee but just not enough nous at the back. The Tigers pushed the self-destruct button.
Palestine started to turn the screw around the midway point of the first half. Goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi pushed a long shot out to the right and when it was hooked back into the danger-zone there was Shahrul Saad to clear Jonathon Zorilla’s shot off the line.
Khairul was in action soon after saving from Abu Nahyeh and then on the half hour, Palestine came closer. Zorilla met a right-sided corner with the bullet header destined for the top corner but there was the Kelantan shot stopper to save his team once again.
There was a sense that Malaysia had weathered the storm, the pressure was still there but the defence looked solid enough — until it cracked.
Razman’s headed clearance from a right-sided cross lacked power and it fell to the feet of Zorilla just inside the area. The striker picked his spot in the bottom right corner and his low shot gave the keeper no chance.
If that was bad enough there was a second within seconds as the visitors threatened to fall apart. A back-pass from the hitherto impressive Matthew Davies on the right side wrong-footed Razman Roslan and there was Ahmad Abu Nahyeh to nip in and slot the ball into the net.
Suddenly, memories of that 6-0 loss in June came flooding back especially when the third came on the stroke of half-time. A corner from the left bounced all around the area and despite the presence of several blue shirts, there was Abu Nahyeh left free to turn inside the six yard box to fire Palestine into an unassailable lead.
Malaysia started the second half aggressively with Wan Zack Haikal shooting wide from distance and soon after Safiq Rahim shot into the grateful arms of Tawfiq Ali. Malaysia’s best moment came just before the hour as Amri Yahyah turned his man on the edge of the area and forced the goalkeeper to use his legs to deny the Southeast Asians a foothold in the game.
Once again, just as Malaysia started to play, they conceded. A cross was, once again, not dealt with. Asharaf Numann was standing at the far post and redirected Zorilla’s centre into the six yard box for Abu Nahyeh to complete his hat-trick.
Just before the end, substitute Tamer Seyam and Jaka Ihbeisheh made it five and six respectively. Malaysia stay in fourth place in Group A with four points from six games and host United Arab Emirates behind closed doors at Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday. – ESPN FC