THE STAR (PETALING JAYA) – Malaysia’s bid to end their 44-year wait for the King’s Cup perished after they lost to Tajikistan 3-0 in a penalty shootout at the 700th Anniversary of Chiang Mai Stadium on Sunday night.
The game ended 0-0 in regulation time, forcing the final to be decided in a penalty shootout.
It was a cagey affair with both sides struggling with the pitch conditions, but once they got acclimatised, the chances came, and it was a game to remember for both goalkeepers.
Especially in the second-half, both goalkeepers – Malaysia’s Ahmad Syihan Hazmi and Tajikistan’s Rustam Yatimov – pulled off several super saves to deny their opponents a goal.
Tajikistan thought they had the lead when substitute Rustam Soirov capitalised on a defensive mistake, but the referee Wiwat Jumpoon saved Malaysia’s blushes by disallowing the goal for offside.
In the penalty shootout, Syihan got Malaysia off to a good start when he denied Tajikistan captain Akhtam Nazarov’s poor Panenka penalty.
But Yatimov then saved Malaysia’s first penalty when he pulled off a super save off Dion Cools penalty.
Vahdat Hanonov got the ball rolling when he scored Tajikistan’s second penalty, and moments later, Yatimov denied Malaysia’s second penalty by saving Nazmi Faiz Mansor’s shot.
Komron Tursunov made it 2-0 for Tajikistan in the penalty shootout. Malaysia’s hopes of reducing the deficit failed when Safawi Rasid’s penalty hit the crossbar.
Soirov, whose goal was given offside, was the hero as he scored the winning penalty to gift Tajikistan its first King’s Cup title.
The last time the national side featured in the King’s Cup final was 44 years ago, where they emerged champions, beating Singapore 3-2.
Before 1978, Malaysia also lifted the Cup in 1972. In 1976 and 1977, they shared the crown with Thailand and South Korea B, respectively, when the match ended in a draw.