Malaysia breeze past Timor Leste in Asian Cup qualifier

It is advantage Malaysia after they comfortably beat Timor Leste in the first leg of their Asian Cup qualifier on Thursday night...

The Tigers take a three-goal advantage into the Asian Cup qualifying playoff second-leg after disposing of Timor Leste 3-0 at Larkin Stadium.

The highly-anticipated atmosphere in Johor Bahru turned out to be a dull affair as, surprisingly, less than a quarter of the stadium was full for the important tie.

Yet Ong Kim Swee's men gave arguably their best performance since the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup final against Thailand, racing off the blocks in search of an early opening goal.

Malaysia entered the match having not scored in 2016 and, following uninspiring performances against Macau and Myanmar, many were wondering just where the team was going to find its creativity without injured playmaker Safiq Rahim.

Ong's answer? Playing central midfielder Amirul Hadi Zainal as a second striker behind Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, a move that paid dividends as Brendan Gan and Baddrol Bakhtiar dictated play in the engine room.

Hazwan, who had not scored an international goal since he scored a hat-trick on his debut against Sri Lanka in 2012, flicked in a Fazly Mazlan cross for the opening goal in the 17th minute before doubling his tally with another tap-in four minutes later.

Both goalkeepers were called into action on numerous occasions during the match before Hazwan played substitute Amri Yahyah through on goal for Malaysia's third.

The second-leg takes place at Larkin on Monday. The winner of the tie will enter the Asian Cup qualifying third round, while the losers still have yet another chance via round two of the playoffs.