: A minute of madness from skipper Safiq Rahim saw Malaysia's chances of qualifying for the 2019 Asia Cup in United Arab Emirates evaporate at the Hong Kong Stadium tonight after losing 0-2 to Hong Kong in an Asia Cup Group B qualifier.
Malaysia who started the match at the bottom of Group B, were reduced to 10-man in the 39th minute when Safiq was given the marching orders by Sri Lankan referee Nivon Robesh Gamini for stomping a player from Hong Kong after losing the ball to the latter's tackle.
In the match that was telecast live, the home side, parading a number of naturalised players, including Jordi Tarres Paramo from Spain, took a firm control of the match but could not breach the Malaysian defence until four minutes after Safiq's exit.
Hong Kong who earned a free kick from the right, took the lead in the 43rd minute through Tarres Paramo's header after Wong Wai had curled in a beautiful freekick into the box, to take a 1-0 half time lead.
Three minutes after the restart, another lapse in defence saw Hong Kong double their advantage when yet another foreign player, Jaimes Anthony McKee from England, headed a cross from Xu Deshuai in the 48th minute to walk out with a 2-0 victory.
Speaking after the match, national head coach cum manager Nelo Vingada accepted the defeat, revealing his side had to rely on counter attacks to penetrate Hong Kong's stronghold since all three strikers who were supposed to play in tonight's match are down with injuries.
"Only Mohd Safawi Rasid was available and like it or not, I had to play him upfront although he is not a natural striker and I believe if another striker, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri was fit, I'm quite confident the situation would be different.
"I also don't want to blame Safiq for receiving the red card and I accept the decision made by the referee although Safiq claimed that he had accidentally stepped on the opponent," Vingada said.