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Tashkent: Second-half goals from Jarrod Basger and Gregory Giovenali proved the difference as Australia joined Japan at the top of Group D after a 2-1 win over Malaysia in the AFC Futsal Championship at Uzbekistan Stadium on Thursday.

Khairul Effendy put the Southeast Asian side in front a minute shy of halftime but strikes in the first five minutes of the second half from Jarrod Basger and Gregory Giovenali handed Australia a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“We displayed a lot of guts and determination in turning around our poor start," said Australia coach Robert Varela.

“As I said before, we may not be the most technical side at the tournament, and there are more skilful teams than us, but we have a simple game plan that we executed well in the second half.

“Defensively we were poor in the first half but the boys knew that if they lost tonight it was the exit for them and they displayed such great mental capacity to turn things around. It was that determination and intensity in the second half that won the day.”

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In a physical opening period both sides picked up yellow cards with Malaysia having the better of the early scoring chances.

Akmarulnizam Idris had a good effort inside the first sixty seconds while Australia crafted two openings down the Malaysian right at the midway point of the half with both missing the target.

Thereafter both nations had several half chances before Malaysia took the lead with less than two minutes remaining in the opening term.

With Australia losing possession near halfway Malaysia launched a rapid counter that finished with Effendy slotting past Angelo Konstantinou to send his side into the break a goal to the good.

The Futsalroos were back on level terms four minutes into the second half, though, when Basger slotted home from the right past keeper Mohamed Firdaus.

Basger went from scorer to provider 90 seconds later when his run down the left saw him evade several Malaysian players before squaring for Giovenali who tucked his shot home at the back post to put Australia in front with a quarter of an hour remaining.

As Malaysia chased an equalizer the game became a frantic end-to-end affair with Azmarulnizam forcing a sharp, low, save from Konstantinou with nine minutes remaining.

With the clock winding down Malaysia turned to the power play and saw both Effendy and Amar Ashraf come agonizingly close to scoring but ultimately it was Australia that prevailed to go joint top of the standings after the first round of fixtures.

“Usually if you concede less than three goals you win in futsal but after we conceded the second goal we just couldn’t find the goal we needed," said Malaysia coach Marcelo Coelho.

“I’m proud of my players. We came here not to defend but to try and attack and put on a good show for the fans.” 

Photo: AFC