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Malaysia push Arsenal all the way

AFF Suzuki Cup champions Malaysia came within three minutes of a famous win over Arsenal before conceding twice to go down 2-1 to the English Premier League giants.

Coach K. Rajagobal fielded a strong team with Safee Sali and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha leading the attack for the first time since Malaysia beat Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup final two years ago.

First choice goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat missed the match handing an opportunity for his replacement Farizal Marlias to shine.

He responded by pulling off a string of stunning saves and his display drew special praise from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Malaysia took the lead in the 45th minute with defender Azmi Muslim finding the net with a stunning left-footed strike from long range.

The Tigers were worthy of their half-time advantage and Safee, the leading scorer in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup with five goals, had a couple of chances to increase the lead after the break.

But Arsenal, powered by second-half substitutes Alex Song and Theo Walcott, looked increasingly dangerous as the game went on and clinched victory with strikes from Thomas Eisfeld in the 87th minute and Chuks Aneke three minutes later.

Malaysia next play English Premier League champions Manchester City as they prepare for the defence of their AFF Suzuki Cup title in November.

They will host Group B with games against Indonesia, Singapore and the second-placed team from the qualifying round in October.

Group A will be hosted by three-time champions Thailand and includes Vietnam, Philippines and the winner of the qualifier.