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Group A: Malaysia 6-2 Tajikistan

Kuala Lumpur: Luqman Hakim Shamsudin starred with four goals as hosts Malaysia got their AFC U-16 Championship 2018 Malaysia campaign off to a flying start with a 6-2 win over Tajikistan in a Group A tie at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Malaysia, who are out to shine on home soil, wasted no time in piling on the pressure and came close to opening the scoring as early as the third minute when Muhammad Firdaus Ramli’s cross found Luqman Hakim Shamsudin up front but his shot flew over the crossbar.

Seven minutes later, Muhammad Najmudin Akmal headed the ball in from a corner but to Tajikistan’s relief, he was ruled offside.

Najmudin and Luqman were Malaysia’s dynamic duo and at the half-hour mark, an exchange of passes between the two led to Luqman sweeping the ball home from close range past Tajikistan goalkeeper Mukhriddin Khasanov.

Two minutes later, Luqman broke through the Central Asians’ defence with his sight on goal but was brought down in the box by Khasanov. Najmuddin converted from the spot.

A boosted Malaysia continued to dominate and in the 42nd minute, Muhamad Umar Hakeem Suhar sent a brilliant through pass that found Luqman and the No.10 forward unleashed a right-footed strike to make it 3-0 going into the break.

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Any hope Tajikistan had of a comeback were dashed just a minute into the second half as Luqman capitalised on a defensive lapse to complete his hat-trick, easily beating the offside trap to steer Muhammad Syukur Fariz’s through pass into goal.

A pass from Muhamad Alif Mutalif saw Luqman notching his fourth as the striker side footed the ball home in the 66th minute.

Zaynidin Rakhimov’s Tajikistan pulled one back when Rustam Soirov was brought down in the box in the 72nd minute with Sharifbek Rahmatov slotting the spot-kick home.

Malaysia, however, responded with a penalty of their own when Tajikistan defender Muhammadrasul Litfullaev fouled substitute Muhammad Amirul Azzim Mohd Ruzki in the box in the 75th minute. Alif stepped up to convert.

Further drama ensued in the closing minutes when Malaysian custodian Sikh Izhan Nazrael was shown the red card for a rough challenge on Soirov.

With Malaysia having already made their three substitutions, skipper Muhammad Hariz Mansor donned the goalkeeper's jersey and denied Zairov Islom’s spot-kick but the Tajikistan captain made no mistake with his follow up effort a minute into added time.

Malaysia will take on Thailand in their next fixture, while Tajikistan face two-time champions Japan with both matches on Sunday.

Lim Teong Kim: Malaysia head coach

“We’re glad we got a good start. Although it was 6-2, it was a difficult ‘first child birth’. Although it might look like a big margin, it was tough work for our boys. These are just kids, he (Sikh Izhan) played well and also made a bad mistake, but it’s not a problem, he will learn from his mistake. We are very happy with the score, they played very good football.”

Zaynidin Rakhimov: Tajikistan head coach

“I think Malaysia knew all of our secrets, we had a big problem in our defence today. We did not expect this defeat. We didn’t expect the No.10 (Luqman) to be such a threat.”

Photos: AFC