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 By Paul Murphy

Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim escapes with one-match Asian Cup ban

Captain Safiq Rahim has been cleared to play in the second match of Malaysia's crucial 2019 Asian Cup qualifying double-header against North Korea on Nov. 13 after receiving just a one-match ban for his red card against Hong Kong.

It had been feared that Safiq's horror challenge on Daniel Rodriguez in the 2-0 defeat in Hong Kong on Oct. 10 could result in a longer spell on the sidelines, but the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Tuesday that he would miss only one game.

This means that Safiq, who was also fined $1,000, will sit out the first of two matches in neutral Bangkok on Nov. 10 but will be available for selection for the "home" fixture three days later.

The experience of the 70-times capped Johor Darul Ta'zim midfielder could be crucial as the Malaysians attempt to revive their hopes of qualifying for the Asian Cup in 2019. They are as bottom of Group B with only point from their first three games.

In addition to Safiq's suspension and fine, Malaysia were hit with a number of other penalties in relation to misconduct during the 1-1 draw at home to Hong Kong on Sept. 5.

Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim
Safiq Rahim (right) will only miss one of Malaysia's two games against North Korea.

Head coach Nelo Vingada was fined $5,000 and warned about his future conduct after criticising the Australian match officials and questioning their appointment in the postmatch media conference.

And the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) was hit by a $6,000 fine for team misconduct after several players harassed referee Chris Beath when he awarded Hong Kong a penalty in added time.

There was a further financial penalty for the FAM due to fan behaviour as several water bottles, cans and cups were aimed at the match officials after the game.

The AFC's Disciplinary and Ethics Commission's latest decisions also dated back to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia in August.

The FAM received a fine of $7,500 for failing to ensure spectator safety after a sound bomb was let off in the Malaysian section of the stadium in the semifinal against Indonesia.

The Football Association of Indonesia incurred a $16,000 fine for the behaviour of its fans in their match against Cambodia as several objects were thrown onto the field of play. For its responsibility as host, the FAM was hit by a $5,000 fine for incidents during the same game.

And the FAM was also fined $15,000 for fan behaviour at each of the SEA Games clashes against Brunei and Singapore as the AFC ruled that fans had engaged in discriminatory chanting at the opposition fans.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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