Ahmad Shakir Ali did his chances of playing in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup no harm at all after scoring a late equaliser in Malaysia's 1-1 draw with the Philippines in Manila on Wednesday.
It has been a long way back from the abyss for the 23-year-old Negri Sembilan striker, who last featured for Malaysia in a 5-0 friendly win over Lesotho in September 2009 before he was dropped from the victorious 2009 Sea Games squad.
With Malaysia trailing to Denis Wolf's 35th-minute header, Shakir transferred his domestic form, where he has scored four goals for Negri, to the international stage with a fine stoppage time strike after being set up by Safee Sali.
“I'm impressed with the team, we fought till the last minute. My goal is a result of teamwork. Even when we were a goal down, we did not give up.
“This result is testament to our strong fighting spirit and the fact we never gave up,” Shakir told Astro Arena in Manila after the game.
The draw extended Malaysia's winless run in internationals to seven matches and this is the 20th game in which the national team failed to win on their opponents’ ground since beating Sri Lanka 4-1 on March 24, 2007 in Colombo.
Malaysia could have easily won the game had Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, third choice for English Premier League club Fulham, not been in superb form denying Safee and Safiq Rahim several times.
Wolf's goal, too, could have been prevented had he been picked up at the back post where he headed in low from Jason Sabio's long throw-in.
Winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor earned his first international cap while defender S. Subramaniam made a long awaited return to the national team with his first appearance in four years.
Zaquan Adha Radzak played his first international since 2010 after struggling with injury last year and there was a first start for Terengganu forward Manaf Mamat after three previous substitute appearances.
The bumpy Rizal Memorial Stadium pitch did not help with Malaysia's passing game as the hosts started aggressively but coach K. Rajagobal praised his side's second-half comeback.
“Both teams played well with hunger and determination. I also give credit to the Philippines, I think it was a satisfying match,” said Rajagobal at the post-match press conference.
“We really expected Philippines to start aggressively. We could have sealed the game in the first half with two goals but went into half-time with none. It was a good thing we were able to come back in the second half.
“All throughout it was an entertaining match. I want to give credit to my players for the never-give-up attitude they had today (Wednesday).”