SINGAPORE – Harimau Malaya (national squad coach) Dollah Salleh said last minute tactical challenges in Malaysia’s attacking format paid off when facing Singapore in their final Group B match at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports tonight.
Dollah said when the strike pair of Mohd Safee Mohd Sali and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha were not able to find the winning goal in the final minutes of the match, he took the decision to substitute them with Abdul Manaf (Mamat) and Indra Putra (Mahayuddin) and the gamble paid off.
“What was interesting was that Indra Putra was able to score from a difficult angle and he should be made an example to several of our younger players,” he told the post-match conference.
Malaysia defeated Singapore 3-1 in the match to book a meeting with Group A champions Vietnam in the semifinals early next month.
Dollah also praised the players for the tenaciity they showed particularly winger Azamuddin Mohd Akil for his fortitude in creating numerous chances when Malaysia were desperate for victory.
“I am very proud the players did not give up especially when the score was 1-1 with just minutes to go (Singapore just needed a draw to advance to the semis),” said Dollah.
Mohd Safee, who scored Malaysia’s first goal, shared the coach’s views, saying the players kept their nerve though playing before thousands of home supporters.
“We gave more than our best and I hope we can keep the momentum when we meet Vietnam,” said the veteran striker.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Head Coach, Bernd Stange questioned Oman referee Al Kaf Ahmed Abu Bakar Said for awarding a penalty to Malaysia minutes before the match ended.
He, however, praised his young side who gave their best against the neighbours in front of their loyal supporters.
“For me, it did not look like a penalty…I need to see the replay before I can make further comments but who I am to judge the referee’s decision.
“Overall, I’m happy with the players performance and with their age, I believe that they can improve further as we preparing them to play in a few other tournaments such as the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore,” he said.
The 66-year old German also felt sympathy for the thousand of Lions’ supporters over the defeat in their own backyard.
In the semifinals to be played early next month, Malaysia will meet Group A champions Vietnam while Group B champions Thailand will meet the Philippines, the runners-up of Group A.
The first leg of the semifinals will be played on Dec 6 and 7 and the return leg on Dec 10 and 11. – Bernama