North Korea 4 Malaysia 1: Outplayed and outclassed, Malayan Tigers left staring at the exit

Malaysia were completely undone by North Korea in the Group B of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifer played in Buriram, Thailand. The 4-1 final scoreline reflected the dominance which North Korea displayed in the match as Malaysia turned out second best in almost every department to the Koreans.

Eduardo ‘Nelo’ Vingada rang the changes with only three players in the starting XI that started against Hong Kong in the previous match. Francisco ‘Kiko’ Insa was moved to the defence while Afiq Fazail was given his first international cap with Nazmi Faiz and Syamer Kutty Abba alongside him. Meanwhile for North Korea, Jorn Andersen went for the strike pairing of Pak kwang Ryong and Kim Yu Song who shared four goals between goals, scored in the last five matches for the country.

While the match was played at a neutral venue, North Korea were the designated home team for this first meeting and they were the ones in control right from the start. Long diagonal balls behind S. Kunanlan were causing Malaysia plenty of problems with Jong Il Gwan a menacing presence at left wing.

It was from there that North Korea got the opening goal of the night in the 12th minute when a cross from left struck the arm of Fadhli Shas and Fahad Adwan Almirdasi from Saudi Arabia immediately pointed to the penalty spot. A harsh decision but one that still stood and Pak Kwang Ryong stuck away the ensuing spot kick with aplomb to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Malaysia’s first chance of the match came in a very fortuitous manner in the 24th minute when Hafizul Hakim’s long clearance caught the North Koreans asleep and Wan Zack Haikal was allowed to run onto the ball. His subsequent shot however failed to any sort of accuracy.

The frame of Hafizul’s goal would be struck twice before half time, giving the Malaysian team quite the scare. Ri Yong Jik’s thunderous long range effort in the 34th minute hit the crossbar while just four minutes later, Wan Zack’s crazy halfway line back pass left Hafizul scrambling back only to see it hit the post.

North Korea were not to be denied just three minutes before the end of the first half. A strong Kunanlan challenge gave the opponent a free kick, Il Gwan’s delivery was good and Su Yong crept in to glance a header past a stranded Hafizul as North Korea doubled their lead into the break.

The second half would proved to be not better for Malaysia despite Vingada bringing on Shahrom Kalam for the out of sorts Syamer Kutty. It would take North Korea just two minutes after the restart to get their third goal. This time, Fazly Mazlan was at fault for not picking up the run of Kim Yong Il, who rammed an unstoppable shot past Hafizul.

Just 12 minutes later, North Korea would make the score 4-0 after a heavy Fadhli challenge at the edge of the box gave them a free kick opportunity. Yong Il step up to calmly place the ball beyond a sorry Hafizul.

Vingada made more changes with Safawi Rasid and Nor Azam Azih coming on for Wan Zack and Afiq Fazail respectively. The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) winger managed to get himself on the scoresheet to at least make the score respectable when he volleyed home in the 67th minute of the match.

North Korea weren’t going to let that goal hurt them and Jorn Andersen took out his striker and replaced him with a midfielder, looking to shore up the defence and stop any possibility of a comeback from Malaysia. The Norwegian’s decision was vindicated as his side managed to keep Malaysia at bay until full time. 

The result leaves Malaysia still bottom of Group B and needing two wins from the remaining two matches in the group to have any chance of reaching the Asian Cup finals.

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