Malaysia put up a spirited defensive display but lacked a cutting edge up front as they held Philippines to a 0-0 draw in an international friendly in Manila on Wednesday night.
Coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee would be reasonably satisfied with the result, considering his side were playing away to the highest ranked side in Southeast Asia, 37 rungs above them on the FIFA list.
The previous four meetings between both nations had produced only two goals, dating back to 2012, and hopes were high that this encounter would change that record.
Philippines took the game to their visitors from kick off on the artificial turf of the Rizal Memorial Stadium, with their experienced striker Phil Younghusband in the thick of action in the opening minutes.
The ex-Chelsea junior had the ball in the net after six minutes, but it was correctly chalked for offside.
Younghusband came agonisingly close four minutes later, taking a Javier Patino through ball in stride only to bend an effort just wide of Khairul Azhan's right-hand post.
Malaysia were looking defensively sound to keep the home side at bay. But they struggled to make inroads up front as the combination of Amri Yahyah and Badrrol Bakhtiar in central midfield lacked possession to fashion any chances.
Philippines began to rack up a raft of corners as the game wore on. Amani Aguinaldo almost capitalised, with a glancing header that flew just wide after 34 minutes.
Four minutes after the break, Malaysia had a penalty shout when Amri Yahyah went down in the penalty box from a Junior Munoz challenge.
His appeal was, however, turned away as the Malaysians searched in vain for their first goal in their last three international games.
Hikaru Minegeshi, considered Philippines' best player last year, made his entrance after 70 minutes. He instantly caused the Malaysians problems with a shot from a tight angle that was comfortably dealt with by Khairul Azhan.
Akram Mahinan and S. Veenod were then brought on for Baddrol and Amri in the last 15 minutes as coach Ong looked to ensure a fourth consecutive clean sheet against the Azkals.
Veenod had a glorious chance to gift Ong in what could possibly be his final win in charge of the national team. But the midfielder scuffed his effort into the side netting from six yards out two minutes from the end.
Philippines will now begin 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group F qualifying with the visit of Nepal to the same venue on March 28.
The Malaysians will, meanwhile, return home for an extended break after their Group B opener away to North Korea was postponed until June 8, due to security concerns.
Malaysia: Khairul Azhan Khalid (GK), Shahrom Kalam, Ronny Harun, Shahrul Saad, Baddrol Bakhtiar, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Syazwan Zainon, Amri Yahyah, Safee Sali, Khair Jones, Ronny Harun, Rizal Ghazali
Philippines: Neil Etheridge (GK), Junior Munoz, Iain Ramsay, Manuel Ott, Misagh Bahadoran, Phil Younghusband, Daisuke Sato, Amani Aguinaldo, Dennis Villanueva, Kevin Ingreso, Javier Patino