Malaysia's hopes of playing in the 2011 Asia Cup evaporated at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil after losing 1-3 to Uzbekistan in their Group C qualifying match in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday.
It was Malaysia's third consecutive defeat in as many matches and the second against Uzbekistan, incidentally by the same score line, who were clearly in a class of their own with their better fitness and crisp passing.
Coached by Mirdjalal Kasimov, the Uzbek's struck the first blow in the 32nd minute through defender Anvar Gafurov's header before Bakhodir Nasimov nailed the second in the 58th minute after receiving a pass from Jasur Hasanov inside the penalty box.
Malaysia reduced the deficit in the 70th minute when Baddrol Bakhtiar's powerful drive gave the 200 odd fans something to cheer but Uzbekistan skipper Timur Kapadze restored his team's two goal advantage in the 72nd minute with a clinical strike.
National head coach K. Rajagobal was quick to acknowledge that he knew a win against the Uzbeks was going to be difficult despite playing at home, as there was a vast difference in a number of aspects, mainly technical.
"We really felt the absence of suspended striker Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak (two yellow cards) because he could have added speed in attack. Overall they played well and regained some confidence after scoring a goal," said Rajagobal.
Malaysia complete their Group C fixtures against UAE in January next year while Uzbekistan have already confirmed their place for the finals in Qatar, with nine points from three matches.
UAE need one point from their next match to follow the Uzbeks to Qatar.