by k. rajan
pic : M. AZHAR ARIF / The Star
SELAYANG: The highlight of the international friendly match between Malaysia and the Philippines at the Selayang Stadium was off the pitch.
Referee Mohd Amirul Izwan Yaacob was forced to stop the match in the 31st minute for eight minutes after flares and smoke bombs were thrown onto the track on Saturday night.
The Ultras, who kept quiet for 30 minutes as a sign of protest against the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), lit flares and threw smoke bombs onto the track before singing derogatory songs, insulting the national football governing body.
The match, which ended in a goalless draw, saw Malaysia rue their bad luck in the “A” international friendly.
The unlucky Malaysian side had a valid goal from Mohd Amiridzwan Taj Tajuddin's header in the 14th minute disallowed for handball, while attempts by Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak (15th), Safiq Rahim (16th) and Mohd Amri Yahyah (18th) were all denied by the woodwork.
Prior to the eight-minute interruption, Malaysia were dominating the game and looked much more dangerous with winger Amri combining well with strikers Safee Sali and Bobby Gonzales to press the Philippines' backline.
Malaysia continued from where they left off in the second half and looked much more enterprising under the guidance of interim coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee, who handed goalkeeper Mohd Khairulazhan Mohd Khalid and midfielder Mohd Hafiz Kamal their first cap.
The Philippines also had a valid claim for a penalty in the 90th minute denied after defender Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar brought down Jason De Jong.
However, the Philippines, also known as the Azkals, played a solid defensive game to extend Malaysia's winless record against them to three matches.
Kim Swee admitted that the delay cost his team the attacking momentum they had built up, but he was nonetheless happy with his team's performance.
“We created a lot of chances but could not make it count. Our strikers need to improve,” said Kim Swee in the post-match press conference.