BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysia boss Tan Cheng Hoe was delighted by the performance of his charges in their 2-0 Group G World Cup Asian qualification win over arch-rivals Indonesia on Tuesday.
In the match that was played at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, JDT maestro Safawi Rasid produced a splendid performance to net both goals (30', 73'), while substitute goalkeeper Farizal Marlias redeemed himself after conceding a late penalty, by correctly guessing the direction of Osas Saha's weak spot kick.
Malaysia v Indonesia match highlights
The win capped off a splendid November for the Harimau Malaya, after edging Tajikistan 1-0 in a friendly and Thailand 2-1 in an earlier qualification match, with both teams ranked higher than Malaysia.
Malaysia are currently in second place in the group, on nine points, two behind Vietnam, and ahead of the more fancied Thailand and UAE, as well as the bottom-placed Indonesia.
The win over Indonesia, their last match of the year, also saw them close 2019 with a record of nine wins and four defeats, not including a 2-1 win over Maldives in an unofficial test match, a marked improvement for a team who just two years earlier infamously ended 2017 with no win at all.
Despite the win against the bottom side, the former Kedah coach insisted in the press conference that the win was a tough one.
"It was an incredible performance by our players, it wasn't easy to play against Indonesia who fielded a different set of players. It was a difficult match because our players were a bit lethargic, and they started a little slow. They kept losing the ball and allowed Indonesia to move the ball around.
"But we got the important opening goal from Safawi who played very well, and in the second half we got back into the game and our flow became very, very good," he noted.
However, when asked by Goal about the pending absence of star midfielder Brendan Gan in their next qualification match, away to UAE in March next year, due to a booking he picked up against Indonesia, Cheng Hoe responded that he is not worried about it. He instead wants his charges to enjoy their well-earned end-of-season break.
"Brendan has been playing really well in the two most recent matches but I have no other option than to select a suitable replacement. There's still a long way to go, so I want the players to enjoy their break.
"They've been under a lot of pressure yet they made sure that we successfully collected six points [from the two most recent qualification matches]. I want them to utilise the break as well as they can, before coming back strong next year," explained the 51-year old trainer.
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A post shared by Goal Malaysia (@goal_malaysia) on Nov 19, 2019 at 6:49am PST