Malaysia left it late to carve out a 3-1 win over Laos for their second straight victory in Group A of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Monday.
Striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was the hero for Harimau Malaya when he netted twice in the late stages of the game to ensure all three points on home ground.
The national team, still fresh from last Thursday’s 1-0 opening win over Cambodia, started brightly in front of 10,000 home fans.
Although head coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s men controlled the game with some slick moves, they were stunned after just seven minutes as Laos opened the scoring when Phithack Kongmathilath’s free kick sailed past goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
To their credit, the national players fought back to equalise seven minutes later when skipper Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak cooly converted a cross from Muhammad Syahmi Safari.
The teams went into the break tied at 1-1.
Cheng Hoe made three substitutions for the second half, bringing on Akhyar Abdul Rashid, Shahrel Fikri Fauzi and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, giving Norshahrul more space in the Laos penalty box.
The strategy clearly paid off as Malaysia completely dominated the game and launched several attacks.
Defender Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak nearly put Malaysia ahead in the 67th minute but his header could only rattle the bar.
Laos goalkeeper Outthilath Nammakhot then thwarted Akhyar's effort in the 70th minute.
But there was nothing the Laos goalkeeper could do in the 86th minute when Norshahrul took advantage of a mix-up in the penalty box to score from close range.
Norshahrul was not done yet, though, as he added the third just before the final whistle when he headed home a cross from Akhyar.
Malaysia currently top Group A with six points, followed by Vietnam and Myanmar on three points each.
The Harimau Malaya will travel to Hanoi to face Vietnam on Friday before welcoming Myanmar to the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on November 24 to complete their group fixtures.