By Jugjet Singh
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia started their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign on a shaky note when they edged Cambodia 1-0 at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh Thursday.
The solitary goal was scored in the 30th minute off by Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.
In the last AFF Cup meeting two years ago, Malaysia had beaten Cambodia 3-2.
Malaysia ranked 169 in the world started on a level note with Cambodia who are just one rung below at 170.
The national players struggled for the first 15 minutes and even missed a few scoring chances before a wave of five players mounted an attack and it was finished off by Norshahrul.
Zaquan Adha had a beautiful chance to hand Malaysia the lead in the 14th but failed from close range. Norshahrul then missed another chance before Safawi Rasid's 26th minute attempt hit the post and bounced away.
In the second half, Malaysia defended stoutly and replaced goalscorer Norshahrul with another striker Shahrel Fikri in the 62nd minute.
The match became intense as Zaquan Adha became the first player to be booked in the match for a dangerous foul in the 65th minute. And not taking any chances with the yellow, coach Tan Cheng Hoe replaced Zaquan with Hazwan Bakri.
But in the end, Malaysia held onto the early goal for full points.
Playing in Group A, Cheng Hoe's men next meet Laos at National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Monday.
Malaysia’s performance in the AFF Suzuki Cup has been hot and cold as they won their only title in 2010 and reached the semifinals in 2014. However, two years ago, Malaysia didn’t even manage to get past the group stage.