Phnom Penh: A first-half header from Norshahrul Idlan Talaha gave Malaysia a hard-fought 1-0 win over Cambodia to open their 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup account on Thursday.

Spurred on by a vocal home crowd at the National Olympic Stadium, the home side were immediately on the front foot and should’ve taken an early lead in just the third minute.

A wonderful ball from Chan Vathanaka saw Sos Suhana get in behind the Malaysian defence, with the midfielder squaring the ball back across the box for Reung Bunheing, but the striker scuffed his effort and the visitors were let off the hook.

Tan Cheng Hoe’s side then almost took a fortuitous lead in the 15th minute when the Cambodian defence failed to clear Syahmi Safari’s cross, with the ball falling at the feet of Zaquan Adha, but he couldn’t readjust his body quickly enough to get any power behind his effort and the ball ended up in the grateful arms of goalkeeper Um Vichet.

As the half wore on the Malaysians started to get on top and were denied the opening goal by the woodwork midway through the half when Safawi Rasid’s curling effort from the edge of the area bounced back off the post.

Less than five minutes later and the Malaysians did take the lead after brilliant lead up play from Mohamadou Sumareh and Rasid saw Idlan head home a cross from Adha in the 30th minute.

The home side almost went two goals down just minutes later but were saved by the offside flag after some calamitous defending trying to play the ball out from the back.

Chan Vathanaka, so often the talisman for the home side, was the main outlet in attack for Felix Dalmas’ side, but he was well held by the Malaysian defence throughout the match.

The home side pushed hard for an equaliser in the second half, but struggled to find a way through the well organised Malaysian defence and in the end it was the visitors that prevailed on the night.

Malaysia next face Laos at home in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, while Cambodia travel to Mandalay to face Myanmar.