The national Under-23 team's debut in the AFC Under-23 championship began on a sour note after it fell 4-1 to former champions Iraq during their Group C match.
Iraq's goals were scored by Mohammed Khalid Jaffal Al-Jumaili (fifth minute), Amjed Attwan (28th), Alaa Ali Mhawi strike (56th) and Hussein Ali Jasim Al-Saedi (81st) for a winning start at the Changshu Stadium in China on Wednesday (Jan 10).
Malaysia got their consolation goal through striker Safawi Rasid (79th).
National Under-23 team coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee made three changes to the team which started in the KL 2017 SEA Games final, with goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal Che Kassim, midfielder Danial Amier Norhisham and defender Dominic Tan coming in for Haziq Nadli, Syameer Kutty Abba and Adib Zainuddin.
Iraq, who won the championship in 2013, got off to a perfect start with Mohammed Khalid heading in the opener from close range off Bashar Resan's cross.
The Malaysians picked up the pace after the goal but Iraq proved to be the superior side as they dominated the game with their fast attacking moves and ball possession.
The Iraqis got their second goal after Amjed rifled in a low shot to the bottom left corner from the right side of the box to give his side a two-goal cushion.
Kim Swee's men had their chances through striker Safawi, but his poor decision-making saw the chances fizzle away.
Iraq continued their domination in the second half and Alaa Mhawi's left-footed shot from a tight angle sealed the three points for his team.
The introduction of midfielder Akhyar Rashid at the one-hour mark added more bite to the Malaysian team, with his mazy runs placing pressure on the Iraqi backline.
Akyhar then broke through the Iraqi defence with a fine dribbling run and his pass found Safawi, who fired in a low shot for Malaysia's goal in the 79th minute.
Malaysia's hopes of a comeback were dashed after Hussien Ali restored his side's three-goal lead three minutes later.
Substitute winger M. Kogileswaran Raj could have reduced the deficit, but his attempt was cleared off the line by Iraqi keeper Ahmed Basil deep into added time.
National Under-23 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee admitted his team lost to the better side.
"We lost to a better team, you can see a lot of difference especially the individual quality. Iraq are a very balanced side but we tried to compete with them but we conceded two silly goals through our own mistakes
"It is sad to see the result, which is not good. If you make silly mistakes like this you will be punished."