Hafizul Hakim’s late heroics helped Malaysia hold Hong Kong to a 1-1 draw at the Hang Jebat Stadium, despite finishing the match with 9 men on the pitch.
Nelo Vingada fielded a rather attacking-minded line-up, with Darren Lok spearheading the offensive department. But it took 10 minutes for Malaysia to create the first chance of the match Darren Lok picked up a loose ball, and attempted a shot from distance, though it failed to trouble Hong Kong’s Yapp Hung Fai.
Five minutes later, Hong Kong could have had the lead, had it not been for Aidil Zafuan’s perfectly timed tackle on Alexander Oluwatayo, who only had Hafizul Hakim to beat. But to a large extent, it was Malaysia who had more movement in attack, as they attempted to unsettle the Hong Kong defence.
Safiq Rahim’s free-kick missed the target on the 23rd minute, before Alessandro Leonardo shot straight at Hafizul, after being played through brilliantly by Chan Siu Ki. On the 35th minute, Darren Lok evaded Jean Kilama on the left-flank and fired an attempt on goal, but Yapp was alert enough to parry it away to safety.
Only a minute later, Rizal Ghazali’s long cutback almost found Amirulhadi Zainal but Baise Festus did enough to unsettle the JDT midfielder and forced him to shoot over the bar.
Hong Kong then had two great chances within a minute. Hafizul had to dive to save Lam Ka Wai’s free-kick and he was in the right position to catch Kilama’s header from the resulting corner, as the match went into half-time.
Five minutes after the restart, Syazwan was able to launch a beautiful low cross, though Baddrol failed to get to the end of it when he slid in. Hong Kong issued an instant response by pulling off a doube save. First, he tipped Leonardo’s shot away, before catching Jaimes McKee’s rebound attempt comfortably.
Two minutes later, Hong Kong broke the deadlock via a counter attack. McKee did brilliantly to cut the ball back to Leonardo, who made no mistakes by firing home to make it 1-0.
It didn’t take long for Malaysia to equalize though. Six minutes later, Yapp failed to keep hold of Safiq’s powerful shot from just outside the box and Syazwan Zainon was on hand to bury the rebound.
On the 60th minute mark, Hong Kong spurned a glorious chance to retake the lead, as a miscommunication between Oluwatayo and Leonardo caused the former to miskick McKee’s low cross from the left.
The match tempo slowed down towards the 80th minute, though it burst into life in the final few minutes, albeit for the wrong reasons. Rizal Ghazali was sent off for a second bookable offence, after entering the pitch without consent from the referee. Deep into injury time, Aidil Zafuan was sent off after bringing Oluwatayo down inside the box. But thankfully for Malaysia, Hafizul Hakim produced a stunning save to deny Leonardo and keep the score 1-1.
As soon as the final whistle was blown, Nelo Vingada and several Malaysian players stormed onto the pitch to confront the referee. But security officers raced into the pitch and managed to surround the referee and his two assistants, before escorting them them out in front of a visibly frustrated home crowd.
More to come…