A fatigued Malaysian side put on a spirited performance in their Asian Zone final round Olympic qualifier before going down 2-0 to the Syria at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
Syria’s goal by midfielder Solaiman Solaiman and striker Nassouh Nakk Dahliin in the 53rd and 88th minute dashed the hopes of the 20,000 home crowd at the stadium.
Skipper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat continued his heroics after winning the SEA Games gold medal by denying the Syrians a victory by a bigger margin with several excellent saves.
The team started off well by playing good football with nifty short passes and had the better ball possession despite the Syrians having more attempts at goal in the first half.
The Malaysian defence, marshalled by Mohd Muslim Ahmad, did well to break the Middle Eastern sides attack spearheaded by lanky striker Omar Al Suma.
Malaysia’s best chance to score came in the 29th minute but winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Mansor’s poor ball control saw the ball trickled over the touchline.
Much maligned striker Ahmad Fakri Sarani also missed a glorious chance to put Malaysia ahead in the 31st minute but his shot from the edge of the box was easily collected by Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma.
Wan Zack had another good chance in added time of the first half but his header from Fandi Othman’s free-kick went wide.
Syria doubled their effort in the second half and had the Malaysian defence under pressure and were duly rewarded with the opening goal.
Malaysia were caught napping as a harmless throw in was flicked into the box and Solaiman rose above the rooted defence to head the ball in.
The fast tiring Malaysia side conceded the second goal when substitute Nassouh easily scored in the 88th minute after a poor pass from Malaysia’s Muslim.
The defeat drops Malaysia to the bottom of Group C while Syria go top of the group on goal difference with Japan on six points.
Bahrain are third as they have a better goal difference than Malaysia.
Malaysia play their final home game of the qualifying rounds against Bahrain on Sunday.