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 By Jason Dasey

Hazwan Bakri fit, but Khairul Helmi forced out of Malaysia squad

Malaysia striker Hazwan Bakri has been cleared to play in Tuesday's home friendly against Afghanistan, but Kedah defender Khairul Helmi Johari is likely to miss the match, due to a knee strain.

Assistant national coach Brad Maloney confirmed that full-back Khairul was the only injury concern ahead of the game at Shah Alam Stadium against the 149th-ranked Afghans.

Hazwan had to be substituted in the 71st minute after taking a knock in last Friday's 0-0 draw with Singapore, but Maloney said that the 25-year-old forward will be fit to play on his Selangor home ground.

"We trained on Sunday at FAM headquarters, and will have a final training session at Shah Alam on Monday," Maloney told ESPN FC. "The players are very upbeat after the game in Singapore."

Despite riding their luck in the first half, the Malaysians ground out a draw at the Sports Hub, in a vastly improved defensive performance that saw several encouraging developments, according to Maloney.

Hazwan Bakri, Malaysia striker
Hazwan Bakri is likely to lead the line for Malaysia on his Selangor home ground.

"We tried a few different combinations, with players coming back after a bit of a break, or injury. [Selangor centre-back] Shahrom Kalam had been injured for a few months, and it was his first competitive match in a while, so it was pleasing to see him, and some other guys do well for us."

Maloney added that he wasn't concerned that English-born debutant Darren Lok struggled to make an impact when coming on midway through the second half.

"It was another pleasing aspect to see Darren Lok make his debut," Maloney said. "He didn't have a lot to do, but he did a lot of hard work off the ball.

"[Fellow substitute forward] Norshahrul [Idlan Talaha] has got class. He held the ball up well when he came on, and made it difficult for the opposition."

Afghanistan beat Singapore 2-1 in an AFC World Cup qualifier in March, and Maloney said he expected a tough match. But, the target, he said, was to give game time to more of the 25-man squad ahead of next month's AFF Suzuki Cup.

"It will be similar to [Friday's] game... to give every player as much time as possible on the pitch, including those who didn't get on the park against Singapore," Maloney said.

Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.

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