Norshahrul double helps Malaysia survive Laos scare in AFF Suzuki Cup
Despite being expected to comfortably see off the Laotians, Malaysia found themselves behind after just four minutes when Phithack Kongmathilath lined up a freekick 25 yards out and fired away a brilliant effort past Khairul Fahmi.
The hosts did soon recover and equalised ten minutes later when Syahmi Safari pushed forward on the overlap and whipped an inviting cross into six-yard box, where Zaquan Adha was on hand to guide it home.
But despite dominating proceedings from then on, Harimau Malaya somehow struggled to find a second goal despite some very unconvincing goalkeeping by Laos custodian Outthilath Nammakhoth.
Centre-back Aidil Zafuan had two excellent chances from set-pieces after halftime but was denied by the bar on the first occasion, before nodding just wide after getting in front of Outthilath at the near post.
Nonetheless, with five out-and-out forwards on the pitch following three very attacking substitutions, Malaysia’s persistence finally paid off with four minutes to go as a Syazwan Andik corner was helped on by Shahrel Fikri Fauzi into the path of Norshahrul, who showed a real poacher’s instinct to force the ball into the back of the net.
And, just for good measure, Norshahrul notched his third goal of the campaign in the second minute of injury-time, making a darting run that was cleverly picked out by Akhyar Rashid and clinically sending a header past Outthilath.
MALAYSIA: Khairul Fahmi, Syahmi Safari, Aidil Zafuan, Shahrul Saad, Syazwan Andik, Safawi Rasid (Ahmad Hazwan Bakri 62’), Syafiq Ahmad (Shahrel Fikri Fauzi 62’), Akram Mahinan, Syazwan Zainon (Akhyar Rashid 46’), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Zaquan Adha.
LAOS: Outthilath Nammakhoth, Aphixay Thanakhanty, Kaharn Phetsivilay, Thothilath Sibounhouang, Lathasay Lounlasy, Vanna Bounlovongsa, Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Chanthaphone Waenvongsoth (Somxay Keohanam 69’), Phouthone Innalay (Kittisak Phomvongsa 82’), Phithack Kongmathilath (Soukchinda Natphasouk 85’), Bounphachan Bounkong.