Taiwan won a thrilling World Cup qualifying match against Malaysia 3-2 in Taipei yesterday, but it was not enough for the hosts as Malaysia went through to the next round to face Singapore by virtue of away goals, with the aggregate score finishing at 5-5.
The match kicked off in front of the biggest crowd at a soccer match in Taiwan in living memory, with about 10,000 noisy fans at the Taipei Municipal Stadium.
Taiwan, knowing they needed to win to progress, started on the front foot and a cross from the left almost fell for Chang Han in the third minute, but he just could not stretch to reach it.
They were made to pay for that miss in the eighth minute when Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak beat Lin Po-cheng from a free-kick from about 30m out.
Taiwan kept up the pressure on the Malaysia defense, with Chang’s diving header saved by the goalkeeper and Chen Po-liang hitting the wall from a free-kick.
The breakthrough finally came in the 31st minute, when Chang hooked the ball into the net after a scramble in the Malaysia goalmouth.
That lead lasted only nine minutes, though, with Malaysia skipper Safiq Rahim curling in a free-kick from the edge of the area, but Taiwan responded before halftime, with Chen equalizing from the penalty spot after a foul in the area which earned Mahali Jasuli a yellow card.
After the break, Taiwan continued to pressure the Malaysia defense and they earned another penalty in the 62nd minute, but this time Chen’s kick was saved by the goalkeeper.
Just 13 minutes later, Taiwan earned another spot kick and this time Taiwanese-French Mechelen defender Xavier Chen made no mistake on his debut, firing into the top right-hand corner.
Taiwan knew they needed to find a fourth to keep alive their hopes of make it to the Wold Cup, but the nearest they came was Lo Chih-en’s diving header that flew just wide in the 87th minute.
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