BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Having improved throughout Malaysia's 2018 AFF Championship campaign, 20-year old right back Syahmi Safari seemingly capped it off in stunning fashion, in their second leg semi-final match against Thailand on Wednesday.
With Malaysia trailing 1-0 in Bangkok, in 28th minute the youngster approached the Thailand penalty box with the ball from the right, and launched it over goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom and into the top far corner, for the equaliser and his first ever Malaysia senior goal.
However, in the dying moments of the match with the scoreline tied at 2-2 and the visitors leading on the away goal-rule, the Selangor player handled a cross from the right with his hand inside the penalty area, and was shown a second yellow.
Fortunately for him and the Harimau Malaya, Thailand star Adisak Kraisorn sent his spot kick over the crossbar, and Malaysia are in the final, but without the service of Syahmi who will be suspended for the first leg.
The consequence of his action was not lost on him. He could be seen being consoled by his teammates and the coaching staff, even while they were celebrating after the final whistle.
Speaking to the press after the match, he explained that the handball was not a deliberate attempt on his part.
"Praise Allah, I got my first Malaysia goal and played well in the beginning, but the handball near the end was entirely my fault. It wasn't intentional. I cannot describe the way I felt when the penalty was awarded.
"If the penalty had gone in it would have been my fault, but the night was destined to be ours. I'm glad we are in the final!
"The support and encouragement I've received from my teammates has been fantastic. For sure it's a lesson learned for me, a young player," he remarked.
Malaysia's first leg final match will be on December 11, Tuesday at Bukit Jalil, against the winner of the other semi-final tie, between Vietnam and Philippines. Syahmi will of course miss this encounter, an unfortunate outcome for a player who has played every minute of Malaysia's matches in the tournament up until his sending off.
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