In a dramatic opening match of the Merdeka Cup, India faced a tough 2-4 loss against hosts Malaysia, leaving fans and players dismayed. The game was marred by refereeing decisions. Also, a challenging pitch posed several obstacles to the players.
From the beginning, Malaysia seized the initiative. Dion Cools struck in the seventh minute to give his team the lead. India responded soon as Naorem Mahesh Singh’s elegant volley found the back of the net.
The critical turning point came when Nikhil Poojary’s ill-judged challenge on Arif Amin inside the Indian penalty box resulted in Malaysia’s penalty kick in the 20th minute. Amin converted it, putting Malaysia in the lead again.
Things worsened for India as Faisal Halim extended Malaysia’s lead to 3-1 four minutes before halftime. India’s captain, Sunil Chhetri, pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute, narrowing the margin to 2-3.
Five minutes later, the match turned controversial when Lallianzuala Chhangte’s goal was denied. The referee disallowed Chhangte’s shot, which deflected off Ahmad’s body and crossed the goal line before a clearance from Cools.
The decision left India’s coach, Igor Stimac and the entire team irate. The frustration was understandable, as the video evidence supported their claim, showing that the ball had crossed the line.
Malaysia added more misery for the Indian squad when Corbin Ong scored from close range in the 61st minute. It secured their 4-2 victory.
The Merdeka Cup, often called the ‘mini Asia Cup,’ features only three teams this year, with Tajikistan being the third. Unfortunately, war-torn Palestine withdrew at the last minute.
As football enthusiasts anticipate this exciting tournament’s outcome, Malaysia will take on Tajikistan on October 17.