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MD2 - Group G: Malaysia 1-2 UAE

Kuala Lumpur: Ali Mabkhout struck twice as the United Arab Emirates came from behind to defeat Malaysia 2-1 in their Asian Qualifiers Group G tie for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Tuesday. 

Coach Bert van Marwijk was given a reality check on his competitive debut in the UAE dugout as Malaysia took the lead inside the first minute, sending the huge crowd at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium into raptures.

Matthew Davies advanced down the right flank and supplied a pinpoint cross for Syafiq Ahmad who rose high in the space between the Emirati centre-halves and guided a towering header into the back of Khaled Eisa's net.

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Ahmad came close to doubling the hosts' advantage inside the opening quarter of an hour after being fed with another Davies cross, but the UAE defence were able to close down the forward.

Mabkhout thought he had brought the Emiratis level 29 minutes in after the Malaysian defender slipped allowing him to receive Khalil Ibrahim’s cross with plenty of space and time inside the box, but the striker’s finish was heroically saved by goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.

With just two minutes to the break, Mabkhout finally did restore parity in a similar fashion to Malaysia’s opener. It was Mohammed Al Menhali who chased the ball down the right and crossed for the number 7 to head home the equaliser.

An action-packed second half saw the two teams exchange attacks, but it was Mabkhout again who settled matters, latching on to a long ball by goalkeeper Eisa before slotting home what would prove to be the winner in the 74th minute.

The remaining 15 minutes witnessed an avalanche of Malaysian attacks. Safawi Rasid came as close as possible to find the back of the net with 12 minutes to go, but the number 11 watched in agony as his ball bounced of the woodwork.

The home crowd thought their side had finally got a draw in added time as Brendan Gan struck from long range, but Eisa produced a fine reflex save to deny Malaysia an equaliser and hand his side their first three points.

UAE will resume their campaign against Indonesia on October 10, while Malaysia travel to Hanoi to face Southeast Asian rivals Vietnam.

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