Malaysia rediscover their goalscoring touch
The Malaysians were desperate for a morale-lifting victory after dropping to an all-time low of 171st in the FIFA world rankings released last week and suffering their biggest ever defeat in that 10-0 loss to United Arab Emirates in September.
Laos also needed a boost after an 8-0 defeat to South Korea and a 2-0 home defeat to Kuwait in their last two qualifiers in September.
Both teams played a scoreless first half with little attempts on goal as play was centered in the middle of the park.
Then two goals in three minutes – from Christie Jayaseelan in the 50th minute and then Azamuddin Akil in the 53rd – put Ong Kim Swee's side into cruise control until Sitthideth Khanthavong pulled one back from the spot nine minutes from time.
Safee Sali – the scorer of Malaysia's only other goal this year prior to Thursday – sent a penalty attempt wide in stoppage time and Christie doubled his tally moments before the final whistle for a 3-1 win.
Fadhli Shas was Malaysia's only casualty after aggravating an ankle injury picked up in training on Monday. Pahang skipper Razman Roslan will join the team for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Timor Leste in Dili.
"It's a good win considering we have not been getting much this year," Ong told reporters after the match. "We got the run-out needed.
“We got some parts right from what we desired, not all but the pitch was heavy too, so I'm pleased in the effort put in.
"(At half-time) I made some tactical changes and told the players to play the ball forward more, especially on the flanks, then we had chances."
His opposing number Steve Darby wasn’t too pleased with his side’s lapse in concentration resulting in those two quick goals, but he still found some positives.
"I'm happy in many ways with the performance, in light of the coming qualifier with Myanmar," said the Englishman. "Disappointed with the result? Obviously, but these lads are amateurs not professional like the Malaysians.
“In terms of physical ability, we matched them."
Having spent seven years in Malaysia, Darby felt Harimau Malaya were only suffering from a lack of confidence and would bounce back next year.
"They are not a poor team and believe me, they will improve in the next year,” he said. “I think it's a bit of a mentality thing. There are some good players there.”