BUKIT JALIL: Safawi Rasid scored two stunning goals to inspire Malaysia to a 2-0 win over Indonesia in their pre-World Cup Group G match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tonight.
Safawi’s goals in the 30th and 73rd minutes ensured a perfect end to Malaysia’s 2019 season.
Fresh from a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Thailand last Thursday, Malaysia were slow off the blocks this time.
It took the Harimau Malaya 10 minutes to trouble Indonesia when a Safawi in-swinging corner kick caused a scramble in front of the goalmouth as goalkeeper Muhammad Ridho failed to gather the ball cleanly.
Malaysia had a penalty claim waved off by Iranian referee Alireza Faghani in the 13th minute when Yanto Basna dragged Mohamadou Sumareh to the ground.
Indonesia nearly silenced the home fans in the 20th minute when Febri Hariyadi broke through.
In a one-on-one situation, Febri’s attempt hit the outstretched right foot of Malaysian goalkeeper Khairulazan Khalid and cleared by a defender.
There was bad news for Malaysia, though, as Khairulazan injured himself making the save and had to replaced by Farizal Marlias.
When Safawi was fouled by Yanto in the 29th minute, everyone perked up as they knew the Malaysian was capable of something special.
And they were proven right as Safawi scored a peach of a goal.
The forward picked himself up, dusted himself and struck a sweet left-footed shot that sailed well beyond the reach of the diving Ridho.
Indonesia nearly levelled the score in the 37th minute when Otavio Dutra’s header off a free kick was palmed away by Farizal.
It then fell to Greg Nwokolo inside the box but, before he could pull the trigger, skipper Aidil Zafuan saved Malaysia with a timely clearance.
Malaysia began the second half with coach Tan Cheng Hoe making one substitution — Norshahrul Idlan Talaha replacing Akhyar Rashid.
That saw Sumareh moving the right flank and Safawi on the left.
In the 63rd minute, Malaysia had a chance to increase the score when Sumareh cut the ball back to Norshahrul.
The substitute then laid it to Sameer Kutty, who blasted the ball over the bar.
Five minutes later, Bayu Pradana tried his luck from way out but the ball was easily gathered by Farizal.
Then, off a quick breakaway, it was Brendan Gan’s turn to let fly from a distance. His effort, however, was palmed away by Ridho.
Just when you thought Safawi couldn’t score a better goal, the forward hammered home a real belter in the 73rd minute.
His persistence saw him rob Yanto of the ball on the byline on the right side before blasting another left-footer past Ridho from an acute angle.
That’s as good as three points signed, sealed and delivered.
There was some trepidation though when Indonesia were awarded a penalty after Farizal fouled Febri in the 81st minute.
Luckily for Malaysia, Farizal dived to his right to save substitute Osas Saha’s tame attempt.
Malaysia nearly made it 3-0 in the 87th minute but Safawi’s long-range effort hit the post and went out.
Malaysia had a few more chances but they all came to nothing.
“It was a brilliant performance from the boys following a slot start. We did not settle down fast enough in the opening minutes but we managed to score a goal to set the tempo.
“Safawi scored two brilliant goals but everyone in the team also did their part to record this win,” said Cheng Hoe
Malaysia can now take a well-deserved rest as they will only be in action again next year — against the UAE in Dubai on March 26, Vietnam at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on March 31 and Thailand in Bangkok on June 9.