Malaysia thrash Indonesia in AFC U23 qualifying opener in Bangkok

Malaysia kicked off their AFC Under-23 qualifiers in sizzling fashion by thrashing their Indonesian counterparts 3-0 in an opening Group H encounter at Bangkok's National Stadium on Wednesday.

Syafiq Ahmad, Jafri Firdaus Chew and N. Thanabalan were all on target in the opening 30 minutes to seal three points against their opponents, who were reduced to 10 men in the second half.

To beat a highly rated Indonesian side containing talisman Evan Dimas was a big confidence booster ahead of August's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games when Malaysia will play host in Kuala Lumpur.

Datuk Ong Kim Swee headed into these qualifiers short of some of his best players, including Pahang full-back Matthew Davies and Johor Darul Ta'zim winger Safawi Rasid.

But the Malaysians started off on the best note possible when Kedah striker Syafiq Ahmad gave them a fourth-minute lead, with a cheeky lob over Indonesia goalkeeper Satria Tama.

That goal sparked jubilant celebrations from the usually composed Ong, and it set the tone for a powerful display from the Malaysians.

Malaysia went on to double their advantage in the 18th minute through Jafri Firdaus Chew.

The Penang forward stole ahead of his marker to meet Daniel Amier's free kick with a looping header past Satria to make it 2-0.

The Indonesian defence were caught napping on many occasions, and they were punished again through another set piece in the 29th minute.

This time it was N. Thanabalan's turn to capitalise on slack marking. The Felcra United winger was left with the simplest task of heading home into an empty net after not being picked up from Syazwan Andik's corner.

The 3-0 half-time scoreline was bitterly disappointing for the Indonesians, who had arrived in Bangkok five days before the Malaysians to acclimatise to the conditions.

Luis Milla Aspas' men improved in the second half, with Muhammad Hargianto forcing Ifwat Akmal into his first real save with a rasping drive on the hour mark.

Two minutes later, Febri Hariyadi did well to round the onrushing Ifwat. But he could only find the side netting with the Malaysian defenders back pedalling to cover their custodian.

Any hope of an Indonesian comeback, however, evaporated in the 69th minute when Asnawi Magkualam was harshly red carded for a tackle on substitute Sean Eugene Selvaraj.

The Indonesians did not give up, and continued to retain majority of the possession, but Malaysia kept their shape to limit their opponents' advances to just outside the penalty box.

The win gives the Malaysians a big lift ahead of their next clash against hosts Thailand on Friday, with victory almost certain to guarantee their berth at January's AFC U23 Championship in China.

Malaysia: Ifwat Akmal (GK), Muhammad Adib Zainudin (C), Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik, Jafri Firdaus Chew, N. Thanabalan, Daniel Amier, Irfan Zakaria (Sean Eugene Selvaraj 45'), Syafiq Ahmad, Syazwan Andik, Ariff Farhan

Indonesia: Satria Tama (GK), Putu Gede, Andy Setyo, Bagas Adi Nugroho (Evan Dimas 45'), Gian Zola, Muhammad Hargianto, Marinus Mariyanto, Septian David Maulana, Febri Hariyadi, Ricky Fajrin, Hanif Abdurrauf