Malaysia overcame a one-man deficit to force a 0-0 draw against Myanmar in their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B opener on Sunday evening.
Harimau Malaya got off to a bright start at the Jalan Besar Stadium and even had the ball in the back of the net after six minutes when Amri Yahyah latched onto a brilliant through-pass from Gary Robbat and finished past Thiha Sithu, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag for offside.
A minute later, Myanmar had a golden opportunity when David Htan exchanged a lovely one-two with Kyi Lin before floating in a cross from the right, but Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit could only nod over from four yards out despite being left unmarked at the far post.
Min Min Thu was next to threaten for the White Angels with a 25-yard drive in the 19th minute that Khairul Fahmi initially spilled, although he recovered in time to gather before Kyaw Ko Ko could pounce.
It was then Malaysia’s turn to be wasteful in front of goal two minutes after the half-hour mark when Afif Amiruddin sent a close-range header over the bar after being picked out by Mahali Jasuli’s corner.
However, the turning point of the game came three minutes later when the Malaysians were reduced to ten men after Gary Robbat was shown a second yellow for tripping Kyi Lin from behind.
Still, they continued to look threatening and Amri Yahyah had a powerful freekick saved in the 42nd minute, before another set-piece attempt from Mahali drew an even better stop from Thiha Sithu on the stroke of halftime.
If Malaysia boss Dollah Salleh was already feeling aggrieved by Robbat’s sending-off, he would have been fuming even more ten minutes into the second half when S. Kunanlan charged into the box and fell under David Htan’s challenge, only for the referee to wave play on.
Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was next to have a penalty shout three minutes later when he went down in his attempt to latch on Shukor Adan’s looping pass, but again the referee was unmoved.
As the game entered its closing stages, it then looked as though Myanmar would snatch the win as they pushed forward with great intent.
Nonetheless, they were just unable to find a way past Fahmi, who made a number of excellent saves to earn his side a share of the spoils.
Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi, Mahali Jasuli, Afif Amiruddin, Fadhli Shas, Zubir Azmi, Gary Robbat, Shukor Adan (Baddrol Bakhtiar 76’), Azamuddin Akil (Safiq Rahim 70’), Amri Yahyah, S. Kunanlan, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Indra Putra Mahayuddin 88’).
Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, David Htan, Aung Zaw, Win Min Htut, Khin Maung Lwin, Tin Win Aung, Yan Aung Kyaw, Kyi Lin (Kyaw Zayar Win 80’), Min Min Thu, Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit (Soe Min Oo 90’), Kyaw Ko Ko.