Malaysia, Indonesia claim impressive opening victories in AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers

Safawi Rasid scored Malaysia's opening goal on Wednesday as they began their AFC Asian Cup 2023 third-round qualifying campaign with an impressive 3-1 win over Group E opponents Turkmenistan at Bukit Jalil National Stadium. AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Malaysia have made a fine start in their quest to qualify for AFC Asian Cup 2023, opening their third-round qualifying campaign on Wednesday with a 3-1 Group E victory over Turkmenistan -- who featured at the most recent edition of the tournament in 2019.

Harimau Malaya opened the scoring at Bukit Jalil National Stadium after 11 minutes after Turkmenistan goalkeeper Mammet Orazmuhammedow could only parry a cross out to the penalty spot, paving the way for Safawi Rasid to pounce and effortlessly stroke a shot into the bottom corner.

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Just five minutes later, the hosts doubled their tally when Arif Aiman's endeavour saw him rob an opposition defender off possession inside the area and force the ball loose, paving the way for Faisal Abdul Halim to advance on goal before coolly finishing past Orazmuhammedow.

Turkmenistan did manage to pull one back in the 37th minute after Malaysia's Dion Cools -- in a desperate attempt to intercept a right-wing cross -- could only send a looping header towards his own goal.

Although Farizal Marlias did well to claw the ball out at full stretch, the Johor Darul Ta'zim goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Altymyrat Annadurdyyew from stabbing home the rebound from point-blank range.

But right on the stroke of halftime, La'Vere Corbin-Ong would seal the three points for Malaysia with a stunning solo effort, as he picked up possession just outside his own box and embarked on a barnstorming charge straight through the middle of the field and into the opponents' area, before getting away a shot that took a deflection and squirmed past Orazmuhammedow.

The result sent Malaysia top of Group E alongside Bahrain, who were also opening-day victors as goals from Ali Haram and Kamil Al-Aswad saw them beat Bangladesh 2-0.

In Group A, Indonesia pulled off a big upset against former champions Kuwait -- coming from behind to claim a 2-1 victory.

The Kuwaitis were initially on course for victory through Yousef Nasser 41st-minute opener but Marc Klok equalised just three minutes later, before a strike from Rachmat Irianto a minute after the restart proved enough to snatch the win for Indonesia.

Thailand -- looking to qualify for a second consecutive Asian Cup -- were also victorious on Wednesday as they cruised to a comfortable 3-0 triumph over Maldives in Group C.

Sarach Yooyen got the War Elephants on their way in the 40th minute, as he ghosted into the area to meet a trademark tantalising left-wing delivery by Theerathon Bunmathan with a header in off the bar.

Veteran striker Teerasil Dangda then made it 2-0 just before halftime with his 53rd international goal, before centre-back Pansa Hemviboon put the result beyond doubt with ten minutes remaining when he added a third for the Thais.

The group's other tie saw Uzbekistan cruise to a 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka.

There was late heartbreak for Singapore as they spurned the opportunity to pull off a huge upset, as they threw away a lead by conceding twice inside the final 13 minutes to lose 2-1 to Kyrgyz Republic in Group F.

The Lions looked to be on course for a shock win when Song Ui-young beat the offside trap and took the ball past the opposition keeper, before slotting into the unguarded net to hand them the lead three minutes before the hour mark.

But Song recklessly conceded a penalty to allow Valery Kichin to equalise from the spot in the 77th minute, and Viktor Maier popped up just five minutes later with a neat finish on the turn inside the area to complete the comeback for Kyrgyz Republic.

Myanmar, the other Southeast Asian hopefuls in the group, also had an opening day to forget as they were thrashed 4-0 by Tajikistan.

Elsewhere, Philippines -- who are also looking to qualify for the Asian Cup once again after making their debut in 2019 -- were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw against Yemen, with Group A currently being led by Palestine following their 1-0 triumph over minnows Mongolia.

Finally, in Group D, Hong Kong's bid to feature on Asian football's biggest stage -- for the first time since 1968 -- began with a 2-1 win over Afghanistan, with first-half goals from Wong Wai and Matthew Orr sending them on their way to claiming maximum points, while India were also victorious after beating Cambodia 2-0.