by BERNAMA / pic credit: AFF Cup
KUALA LUMPUR – “We gave too much respect to Vietnam.”
That was Harimau Malaya head coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s frank assessment of the team’s 3-0 loss at the hands of Vietnam in their third Group B match of the 2020 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship in Bishan Stadium, Singapore.
Cheng Hoe admitted that the better team won and described the match against the reigning champion as a gruelling battle as his charges did their best to create an upset against Vietnam on the pitch.
“I don’t think we lost due to a tactical error but I noticed that we played with a lot of caution and sat deep especially in the first half.
“My team were a tad bit casual and we could not keep possession of the ball as we normally do in this match,” he said in a post-match press conference today.
The 53-year-old coach said his players should make the most of the bitter lesson they learnt in their match against the fiery ‘Golden Dragon’ and urged them to move forward by turning their attention to the crucial tie against arch-rivals Indonesia next Sunday, to keep their chances to qualify to the semi-finals alive.
He also hoped the players would use the week off to recover fully ahead of their final Group B match on Dec 19.
Cheng Hoe believed that the result would have been totally different if he had a full squad at his disposal.
“COVID-19 and several injuries to our players had affected the team’s morale but I still need to compliment the way they worked very hard to get the result,” he added.
He also did not want to blame Luqman Hakim Shamsudin for missing a great chance to equalise for Malaysia in the 33rd minute and hoped that the Belgium-based KV Kortrijk player would not be demotivated by such mistakes in the future.
Meanwhile, Vietnam head coach Park Hang-seo was elated to see his team walk off the pitch with three points tonight and hailed his players for displaying great character to win their second Group B game.
“It is always difficult to play against Malaysia but in the end I was very happy to get a win today,” he said.
Malaysia were punished for failing to adapt quickly to the high-intensity game as Vietnam scored twice in a space of four minutes in the first half before sealing the game with their third goal in the dying minutes of the match.
Vietnam’s goals were scored by Nguyen Quang Hai in the 32nd minute, followed by Nguyen Cong Phuong (36’) and Nguyen Hoang Doc (89’).
The result also ended Harimau Malaya’s unbeaten run in the group, after successive wins over Cambodia and Laos.
With their loss, Malaysia has dropped to third place in Group B behind leaders Indonesia and Vietnam, severely affecting their chance to qualify for the semi-finals.
It is also Malaysia’s sixth defeat in their last seven clashes against Vietnam, and fifth for Cheng Hoe since he took charge of the national team in 2017.