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10-man Malaysia claim narrow SEA games win over troubled Timor-Leste

10-man Malaysia were happy to claim a narrow 1-0 win in their Group B SEA Games opener on Saturday against Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee/Action Images via Reuters

10-man Malaysia U23 secured their first Group B win at the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games with a 1-0 victory over a troubled Timor-Leste at the Bishan Stadium on Saturday night.

In the two most significant pieces of action of the first period, Malaysia's star player Nazmi Faiz received a straight red card in the 32nd minute after Pahang FA winger D. Saarvindran had put the two-time champions ahead in the 11th minute.

Timor-Leste's match preparations had been interrupted when a few of their players had to assist officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in a match-fixing case on Friday.

The goal came about when a harmless cross from Nurridzuan Hassan missed Syafiq Ahmad by inches only to fall kindly for Saarvindran, who drilled the ball past Timor-Leste goalkeeper Ramos Saozinho Ribeiro.

Syafiq had a brilliant chance to double the lead three minutes later when a slip by Sabas Victor allowed him through on goal, but the striker's scuffed his first attempt hitting straight to the keeper and his second shot was deflected for a corner.

The match turned on its head in the 32nd minute when Harimau Muda playmaker Nazmi was embroiled in an alleged spitting incident with Araujo Magno that got him a red card from Singapore referee Jansen Foo.

Australian-born right-back Matthew Davies almost gave Malaysia a second goal in the 40th minute but his pinpoint cross was miscued by Saarvindran.

Despite playing with 10 men, Malaysia continued to carve out chances in the second period.

The first of those came in the 56th minute when Nurridzuan's cross found an unmarked Saarvindran at the far post. But Ribeiro stood tall to claim the ball comfortably.

Timor-Leste began to find some rhythm in the attacking third and on 61 minutes, Jairo Pinheiro's lay-off found Alves Ima Kefi who saw his shot deflected out for a corner.

The pendulum swung back Malaysia's way 12 minutes later when substitute Nazirul Naim's corner saw Amer Saidin rocket a header that cannoned off the bar to safety.

There was still time for captain Almeida Barbosa to fire in a 85th minute free kick that stopper Farhan Bakar pushed away superbly to keep Malaysia's slim lead intact.

Though it was a subdued performance by the 2009 and 2011 gold medalists, Datok Ong Kim Swee's men were in control for the rest of the game to see out a hard fought victory.

The win kept Malaysia within touching distance of Thailand and Vietnam in Group B -- both teams recorded identical 6-0 wins over Laos and Brunei respectively on Friday.

Malaysia: Farhan Bakar (GK), Matthew Davies, Gary Steven Robbat (Saiful Ridzuwan 74'), Nurridzuan Hassan (Nazirul Naim 56'), Fandi Othman (C), Adam Nor Azlin, Amer Saidin, Amirul Hisyam, D. Saarvindran, Nazmi Faiz, Syafiq Ahmad (Kumaahran Sathasivam 56')

Timor Leste: Ramos Saozinho Ribeiro (GK), Sabas Victor, Filipe Oliveira (Exequiel Fernandes 45'), Almeida Barbosa (C), Neto Palmeira, Higinio Fernandes (Nathaniel Reis 45'), De Araujo Magno, Alves Ima Kefi, Araujo Magno (Feliciano Goncalves 63'), Paulo Helber, Jose Carlos


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