November 25, 2017
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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will play their 2019 AFC Asian Cup group B qualifying matches against North Korea at a neutral venue in November, according to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

AFC general secretary Datuk Paul Windsor John said the confederation was pleased that the two member associations had agreed to the arrangement after much discussions.

“Playing the games in this way, and in this order, helps us to protect the sporting principles of the Asian Cup Final Qualifying Round,” he said.

According to the statement, the order of matches was maintained as previously announced to protect the sporting integrity of the competition.

“In the interests of competition fairness, it has been decided that both matches between the two countries will be played at the same neutral venue, with North Korea ‘home’ match taking place on Nov 10 and the return fixture – Malaysia’s ‘home’ game on Nov 13,” the statement said.

The match was initially scheduled for March 28 in Pyongyang and was later postponed to June 8, following strained diplomatic relationships between North Korea and Malaysia, after the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s premier Kim Jong-un, at KLIA2 on Feb 13 2017.

The match was once again postponed to Oct 5, just five days before a match against Hong Kong on Oct 10.

Malaysia, who opened their 2019 AFC qualifying campaign with a 1-2 loss to Lebanon on June 13 at Larkin Stadium, held Hong Kong to a 1-1 draw at Hang Jebat Stadium on Sept 5 before losing 0-2 to Hong Kong at Hong Kong Stadium on Oct 10, are at the bottom of group B with one point.

Lebanon are at the top the group with 10 points, followed by North Korea and Hong Kong.

With three matches remaining, Malaysia needed to finish among the top two teams in the group to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in United Arab Emirates from Jan 5 to Feb 1, 2019.

— BERNAMA



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