KUALA LUMPUR: Uzbekistan pounced on two individual errors to sink Malaysia 2-0 in their opening Group D match of the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Asian Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar last night.

The Harimau Muda squad, under the guidance of head coach Juan Torres Garrido, found themselves trailing early in the match after defender Muhamad Syahir Bashah fouled Ruslanbek Jiyanov in the box.

Referee Ahmed Faisal Al Ali of Jordan had no hesitation in blowing the whistle and showing Muhamad Syahir the yellow card before Uzbekistan skipper Jasurbek Jaloliddinov calmly slotted home the spot kick in the 11th minute to put the champions of the 2018 edition 1-0 ahead.

Uzbekistan, who also finished runners-up in the 2022 edition and coached by Timur Kapadze, nearly doubled their lead at the end of the first half when Alibek Davronov headed over the bar from close range, with Malaysian goalkeeper Muhammad Azim Al Amin Kamaruddin rooted to his spot.

Malaysia, playing with two centrebacks often seen with the senior squad in Muhammad Mukhairi Ajmal and Nooa Laine, ended the first half without a shot on target and having just 44 per cent of possession.

Garrido made some changes after the break but his men still could not prevent Uzbekistan from dominating the game and coming close to finding the net.

With 10 minutes to go, Uzbekistan capitalised on another mistake by Malaysia to double their lead.

This time, Husain Norchaev intercepted a shoddy pass from Malaysian substitute Muhammad Abu Khalil and set Ulug’bek Khoshimov up to score goal number two in the 83rd minute.

The defeat means Malaysia will now have to get something from their match against Vietnam at the same venue on April 20 before they face Kuwait in their final group match at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah on April 23.

Malaysia, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2018 edition, are eyeing a similar achievement in this campaign.

Only the top two teams from each group will advance to the last eight and stand a chance to fight for the three automatic spots in the 2024 Paris Olympics while the fourth-best team in Doha will have to take on Guinea in a playoff in Paris in May.