KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 ― National football squad head coach, Tan Cheng Hoe heaped huge praise on his players following their convincing 2-0 victory against Indonesia in their 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, here, last night.
Cheng Hoe acknowledged all those who played, including replacement goalkeeper, Mohd Farizal Marlias played pivotal roles to secure an emphatic double victory against their neighbours, after having defeated the world ranked 171st team in the opening match on September 5 in Jakarta.
Mohd Farizal made several important saves in the match, including a brilliant stop from the penalty spot taken by Indonesian naturalised player, Osas Marvelous Ikpefua in the 83rd minute after the former brought down Febri Hariyadi in the penalty box, which essentially killed off whatever little fire left in the Indonesians to stage a late comeback.
Despite the victory, the 51-year-old coach is staying grounded and feels his charges can still improve their game ahead of three remaining qualifying matches next year.
“As a coach, I can see a lot of positive things within our team, and as for the players, we have to be keep on improving and focusing for the next three matches, so we must aim and dream high to clinch at least second spot in Group G,” he told a post-match press conference.
National winger, Muhammad Safawi Rasid scored a brace in the match to sealed Malaysia’s third victory out of five matches and take the squad into second place with nine points, while Vietnam remain group leaders despite being held to a goalless draw against Thailand in another Group G match in Hanoi.
Cheng Hoe revealed that he would now have to find the best options available to replace midfielder, Brendan Gan who will miss upcoming qualifying match against United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai next March through suspension after picking up two yellow cards.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s caretaker coach Yeyen Tumena said while acknowledging his boys played a good game, their finishing let them down. The loss last night was Indonesia’s fifth in a row, virtually killing off any little hope the regional rivals have left for qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup.
“Both Malaysia’s goals were ‘gifts’ from our players, but I have to praise my charges for working hard and sticking to our game plan, although the end result did not favour us. Malaysia were dominant in the game, and had the better of chances and were far more effective,” the former international said.
Also echoing his views was Indonesian winger, Febri, who admitted Malaysia played a very good game and were deserved winners.
The Persib Bandung player, at the same time, was optimistic the squad are capable of getting back to their best for their remaining games against Thailand and UAE in March, and Vietnam in June. ― Bernama