In a dramatic showdown at the Merdeka Tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia overcame India with a 4-2 victory, bringing an end to India’s campaign at the competition. Throughout the game, India struggled to cope with defensive errors, particularly in the first half, when they faced relentless pressure from the Malaysian side.
India started the match on a strong note, with Sahal Abdul Samad nearly finding the net with a stunning volley that hit the crossbar in the second minute. However, their early efforts were thwarted when, in the seventh minute, Malaysia capitalized on a defensive lapse following a corner, allowing Dion Cools to sweep the ball home.
Undeterred, India swiftly retaliated and managed to equalize through a brilliant combination play involving Naorem Mahesh Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, and Sahal. Mahesh Singh’s volley proved too hot to handle for Malaysian goalkeeper Syihan Hazmi, who let the ball slip through.
The equilibrium was short-lived, as Mehtab Singh conceded a penalty by pushing striker Darren Lok in the back. Arif Aiman made no mistake from the spot, even though Gurpreet Singh Sandhu correctly guessed the direction.
India should have conceded more goals, but several lapses in possession from Mehtab Singh and Nikhil Poojary went unpunished. However, a short pass from Mahesh towards Mehtab was intercepted by Faisal Halim, who calmly slotted the ball past Gurpreet, extending Malaysia’s lead to three.
In the second half, India emerged with a strong attacking intent. Just six minutes into the second half, Sunil Chhetri tapped the ball into an empty net after a skillful combination between Mahesh and Chhangte. India seemed to have another goal shortly after when Chhangte’s right-footed shot crossed the line, but the officials ruled against it, denying India a crucial goal.
Adding to India’s woes, Malaysia swiftly added a fourth goal. Faisal outmaneuvered Akash Mishra and delivered a precise ball to La’Vere Corbin-Ong, who calmly swept it past Gurpreet.
India had further chances, particularly for Sahal and Suresh, but failed to capitalize on them, ultimately regretting their defensive frailty in the first half. Igor Stimac’s squad is set to resume action next month in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, commencing with an away fixture in Kuwait.