Join us as we look back at the most important, memorable or iconic moments in South-East Asian football in 2018.
Malaysia beat Korea at 2018 Asian Games
Malaysia's Under-23 side were drawn in Group E for the 2018 Asian Games, together with Kyrgyzstan, defending champions South Korea and Bahrain. Malaysia opened their group match with a 3–1 victory against Kyrgyzstan before managing to defeat tournament favourites team of South Korea, led by World Cup stars Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan and goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo. Harimau Malaya emerged victorious with a 2–1 scoreline. The victory against South Korea was Malaysia's first during the Asian Games tournament after 16 years. With high expectations from the fans after that match, the team were unable to continue their success and slumped to a 3-2 defeat against Bahrain, but managed to qualify as group winners regardless.
Hadi's Move To The J-League
Young striker Hadi Fayyadh Abdul Razak fulfilled his dream of playing in Japan after sealing a one-year loan deal with J2 club Fagiano Okayama. Hadi will now be playing in a completely different surrounding after two seasons with JDT II in the Malaysian League.
"Since childhood, it was a dream to play as a professional football player in Japan. I am able to take the first step of that dream and I am truly happy. I thank all the people who have supported me so far, I will pour everything into football life in Okayama," Hadi said in a statement published on Fagiano's club website. It's not just the development but the exposure that Hadi will get during his time with Fagiano. In the upcoming 2019 season, if Hadi gets selected, he could even face former AFC Champions League semi-finalist Kashiwa Reysol, who were relegated from the J1 League in the 2018 season.
Safawi Rasid's Magical Free Kick
Tensions were high as Malaysia prepared to host Vietnam for the first leg of the 2018 AFF Cup final. The Bukit Jalil National Stadium was at capacity and the Ultras Malaya were out in full force as Tan Cheng Hoe's side prepared for their fateful encounter.
However, in typical style, Vietnam soaked up the pressure of Malaysia's possession-based game, and sprung on two effective counter-attacks to establish a comfortable lead. The game looked beyond the Tigers, but star defender Shahrul Saad managed to half the deficit. Then, right on the hour mark, rising star Safawi Rasid spun a vicious free-kick beyond the helpless Dang Van Lam to level the scoring, and sent the Malaysian fans into raptures. While it was ultimately not enough to secure a title for the side, it is a moment that will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it.
Perak Win Malaysia Cup
Perak emerged as Malaysia Cup champion 2018, after beating Terengganu FC 4-1 on penaliities in a shootout at the Shah Alam Stadium. The first half saw TFC race ahead of Perak, sealing a 2-0 advantage. However, the Malaysian Super League runners-up were able to claw back a 2-2 draw. The sides eventually drew 3-3, when Igor Zonjic scored into his own goal in the 120th minute of extra time. The game was then taken to penalties, which then gave Perak victory as goalkeeper Muhammad Hafizul Hakim Jothy managed to save two kicks.
JDT Crowned Super League Champions
Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) won the league title this season early after a 2-1 away victory against Perak. This is the fifth time in a row that JDT have won the Super League, as they collected 47 points after 18 games. With the remaining four matches, JDT's 16-point advantage ensured that nobody could challenge their supremacy in the league this season.