Group C: Iraq 4-1 Malaysia
Changshu: Iraq cruised to a 4-1 win over Malaysia on Wednesday as Abdulghani Shahad’s side put on a commanding performance to kick off their 2018 AFC U-23 Championship campaign.
Mohammed Jaffal, Amjed Attwan, Alaa Mwahi and Hussain Ali all found the back of the net for the Iraqis as the inaugural champions made a flying start to life in Group C of this year’s competition.
The clock had barely clicked past the five-minute mark when the Iraqis took the lead, Hamzah Adnan’s pace taking him beyond the Malaysian defence before he cut back a lofted ball that Jaffal headed firmly home.
Malaysia sought to steady themselves after the early set-back and Ong Kim Swee’s side slowly gained a foothold but, by the 28th minute, their good work was undone as Iraq doubled their advantage.
The Southeast Asian side’s defence failed to adequately clear Jaffal’s free-kick into the area and Attwan surged past the defence before unleashing a low shot that slipped beyond the grasp of goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal.
By now Iraq were in complete control, even as the Malaysians made the occasional foray into their opponents’ territory. Safawi Rashid’s long range free-kick did little to trouble Ahmed Basil while Jafri Chew’s attempt from inside the area was blocked by the Iraq defence.
With 56 minutes on the clock, Iraq put the result beyond doubt.
Ali had seen his effort saved two minutes before Mwahi found space behind the defence down the left side of the Malaysian penalty area and he curled his left foot shot beyond Ifwat.
Ifwat kept the Iraqis from claiming a fourth soon after when he dived to his left to parry Bashar Resan’s volley to safety and, with 11 minutes remaining, the Malaysians clawed a goal back as Safawi struck with a low shot from just inside the area.
But Iraq responded almost immediately when Ali was gifted possession inside the Malaysian half by Nor Azam and he outpaced the backpedalling defenders before rounding Ifwat to score with ease.
Abdulghani Shahad: Iraq head coach
"The first match is never easy. Also the Malaysian team are a good team and maybe the result should not be like this. In general, we were successful in this match, we won the three points and that’s the important thing. We did it without yellow or red cards. This is beginning of the tournament and we hope to be successful again in our next match."
Ong Kim Swee: Malaysia head coach
"We lost to a better team and you can see a lot of differences between the teams, especially in terms of individual quality. Iraq have a very, very balanced side and we tried to give them a game. We tried to compete with them, but unfortunately we conceded two silly goals from our own mistakes."