CHANGZHOU, China, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Both Malaysia and Palestine, the two debutants at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship, lost their opening group games as the third edition of the biennial continental tournament completed its second day competition on Wednesday.
Played in Changshu, one of the four hosting cities in Jiangsu province, Iraq beat Malaysia 4-1 in Group C as Abdulghani Shahad's side put on a commanding performance to kick off their 2018 U-23 Championship campaign, while reigning champion Japan began its defence of the title with a 1-0 win over Palestine in Group B.
Mohammed Jaffal, Amjed Attwan, Alaa Mwahi and Hussain Ali all found the back of the net for the Iraqis as the inaugural champions in 2014 made a flying start to this year's competition, with the opener scored in the fifth minute by Jaffal.
Iraq doubled its advantage in the 28th minute when Jaffal unleased a free kick into the area and Attwan beat the Malaysian defenders and goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal with his low shot. And in the 56th minute, Mwahi curled his left foot shot beyond the goalie for a 3-0 lead.
After Malaysia eventually found the net in the 79th minute, Iraq had a quick response when Ali outpaced the Malaysian defenders to score with ease two minutes later.
"The first match is never easy. Also the Malaysian team are a good team and maybe the result should not be like this. In general, we were successful in this match, we won the three points and that's the important thing. We did it without yellow or red cards," said Iraqi head coach Shahad.
Ong Kim Swee, the Malaysian head coach, said: "We lost to a better team and you can see a lot of differences between the teams, especially in terms of individual quality. Iraq have a very, very balanced side and we tried to give them a game. We tried to compete with them, but unfortunately we conceded two silly goals from our own mistakes."
In Jiangyin, Ko Itakura scored the lone goal in the 20th minute and the Japanese played patiently in the second half to keep their advantage, while the debutant Palestine were still unable to penetrate the Japanese backline despite their impressive individual skill.
Hajime Moriyasu, Japan's head coach, said: "I think in the first half we could have created more chances. I want to better the quality of making chances, and when our opponents come at us with intensity, I hope that we can adapt better."
On his part, Ayman Sandouqa, the Palestine head coach, said: "We would like to congratulate Japan, I think they played well and so did we, but I also believe we deserved a point. I am proud of my squad, and this is not the end. With two more games, there's still a lot to come."
In other matches of Wednesday, DPR Korea beat Thailand 1-0 in Group B, while Jordan tied Saudi Arabia 2-2 in Group C.