INCHEON, Sept 21 — Harimau Muda A’s chances of beating Saudi Arabia were shattered when their defence became handicapped after defender Muhammad Zubir Mohd Azmi was handed the red card by Thai referee Pu Udom in the 32nd minute for rough play, said the National Under-23 squad’s coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee.
He said Malaysia had an equal chance to win the match today although the Saudi Arabian players had a physical advantage.
“Everything changed after Muhammad Zubir was taken out of the field and we were forced to play with only 10 players, and the Saudi Arabian team made full use of the opportunity,” he told the post-match press conference.
Harimau Muda A’s aspiration of advancing to the quarter-finals ended following their 0-3 defeat to the Saudis in their final Group A match at the Goyang Stadium near here today.
Ong said he had directed Junior Eldstal, who had a physical advantage, to close the leakages in the team’s defence but failed to check the relentless onslaughts by the Saudi players in the second half.
“I believe Junior and the other players have tried to do their best but they (Saudi Arabia) had an advantage when Malaysia played with only 10 players,” he said.
Ong said he did not quite agree with the action of the referee of the match Pu Udom, which he regarded as heavy-handed when punishing Muhammad Zubir.
“Personally, I think Muhammad Zubir should not have been shown a red card for the incident,” he said.
Commenting on the future of the squad, Ong said he was worried at the shortage of players to shoulder the challenge at the Singapore SEA Games in 2015 and Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2017.
“I prefer the Harimau Muda A squad to be known as the under 23 squad and I hope the effort to find new talents can be escalated because we may experience a shortage of backup players in the future,” he said.
In the Asian Games competition here, Malaysia lost 3-0 to hosts South Korea in their opening match but defeated Laos 4-0 thereafter. — Bernama