PETALING JAYA: Safawi Rasid was in superb form as his brace gave Malaysia a 2-0 win over bitter rivals Indonesia at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tonight.
Roared on by over 80,000 enthusiastic fans, Harimau Malaya started on the front-foot from the first whistle in the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifier.
Their positivity was rewarded in the 30th minute when Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) striker Safawi curled in a gem of a freekick.
The 22-year-old M-League Player of the Year then sealed the three points when he stole the ball from defender Yanto Basna and lashed home from an acute angle in the 73rd minute.
Indonesia were handed a lifeline eight minutes from time when Farizal Marlias brought down speedy winger Febri Hariyadi in the box.
The JDT goalkeeper, however, redeemed himself by saving the resulting spotkick from Nigeria-born Osas Marvellous.
The win, coupled with Thailand’s goalless draw with Vietnam in Hanoi, pushed Tan Cheng Hoe’s men to second place in Group G.
It means Malaysia, who have nine points from five games, are now in a good position to make the Asian Cup.
Four best runners-up across the eight groups will advance to the final World Cup qualifying round and Asian Cup.
The remaining four runners-up will make the Asian Cup third qualifying round.
Malaysia’s next match is away at fourth-placed UAE on March 26.