Safawi, Adam strike as Malaysia beat Brunei in SEA Games opener
Malaysia opened their Southeast (SEA) Asian Games football campaign with a 2-1 victory over a gritty Brunei on Monday night, prevailing through goals from Safawi Rasid and Adam Nor Azlin at Shah Alam Stadium.
The result puts the host nation second in Group A on goal difference, behind Myanmar, who overcame Singapore 2-0 in an earlier match at Selayang Stadium.
Malaysia will face Singapore in their second match on Wednesday.
For the game against Brunei, coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee started with Matthew Davies and Safawi, who missed the recent AFC U23 Championship qualifiers due to club commitments. The pair repaid the selection by combining to devastating effect to give Malaysia a fourth-minute lead.
Davies delivered a perfect curling cross from the right to be met by a thumping volley from Safawi, past Brunei goalkeeper Haimie Anak Nyaring into the top corner.
The hosts were camped in the Brunei half looking to double their lead. But, instead it was the visitors who shocked them with the equaliser eight minutes later. The Malaysian defence was caught napping as Mohammad Akif Roslan threaded a through ball that left Mohamed Zulkhairy Razali one-on-one with Ifwat Akmal.
The Indera SC forward made no mistake, slotting past the goalkeeper to make it 1-1.
Stunned, Malaysia responded almost immediately through a similar move that led to the first goal.
Davies' cross was again on mark, but this time Safawi couldn't capitalise with his header just over the bar.
The Johor Darul Ta'zim winger was proving to be the best player on the field in the first half, and he threatened with a free kick in the 37th minute.
Safawi's sumptuous effort was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Haimie, with the keeper also reacting superbly to push the rebound to safety, with Syafiq Ahmad looking to pounce.
Malaysia needed a response in the second half to appease the 8,374 fans who had come, expecting to see them coast to a win over the ASEAN minnows.
The hosts finally delivered on the hour mark. Selangor forward Adam Nor Azlin rose the highest from a corner to head past Haimie ,and restore their lead.
But Brunei refused to give up. Ifwat was called into action soon after to beat away a long-range free kick from Suhaimi Anak Sulau.
However, Malaysia were soon back in the ascendency, with substitute S. Kumaahran coming close with a header just the crossbar. They kept probing in an attempt to put the game to bed, and Syahmi Safari was within centimetres of connecting with Syamer Kutty Abba's through ball.
A third goal did not arrive, but the win gives the Malaysians a boost before they face Singapore at the same venue in two days' time.
Malaysia: Ifwat Akmal (GK), Matthew Davies, Adib Zainuddin (C), Safawi Rasid (Syahmi Safari 78'), Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Adam Nor Azlin, Jafri Firdaus Chew (S. Kumaahran 62'), Syazwan Andik, Daniel Amier (Syamer Kutty Abba 66'), Irfan Zakaria, Syafiq Ahmad
Brunei: Haimie Anak Nyaring (GK), Suhaimi Anak Sulau, Mohammad Akif Roslan, Asnawi Syazni, Faiq Jefri Bolkiah (C), Azim Izamuddin, Awg Mohd Aman, Mohd Zulkhairy Razali (AK Mohd Alimuddin 69'), Mohammad Shafie Mohd Efenddy, AK Yura Indera Putera, Md Haziq Kasyful Azim
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.