SHAH ALAM - Malaysia stayed in the reckoning for a spot in the 2015 Asian Cup Finals after holding fancied Bahrain to a 1-1 draw in a Group D qualifying round match at the Shah Alam Stadium Tuesday night.
Striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha kept Malaysia in contention with the equaliser in the 70th minute after defender Abdulla Ahmed Saleh struck late into the first half stoppage time for Bahrain.
Bahrain lead the group with seven points while Malaysia stay third with four points after three matches. Qatar are second with six points while Yemen are rock bottom after failing to collect a single point.
The top two teams from the five groups will qualify for the Finals together with one third-best placed team. Malaysia are in the driver's seat for the best-third placed spot.
Datuk K. Rajagopal's side were reduced to taking pot shots at goal in the opening half. Bahrain, on the other hand, were the aggressors.
In the dying minutes of the first half, Malaysia conceded a corner and paid dearly for it. From the resulting kick, Abdulla fired a shot past the outstretched Khairul Fahmi.
The Malaysians put on a better show after the breather. They dominated play and kept pressing for the equaliser.
The lucky break came in the 70th minute. From a pass from Azamuddin Akil, Norshahrul rifled a curling shot from the top of the box for the equaliser.
Oozing with confidence, the Malaysians went in search for the winning goal. They were let down by poor finishing and the Bahrainis held on to secure a point.
Malaysia's next match is against Bahrain in Manama on Nov 15.