BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Despite seeing his side struggle to overcome minnows Brunei U22 2-1 in their 2017 SEA Games campaign opener, Malaysia U22 head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee was not concerned by the performance shown by his men on Monday.
In the Group A match that was held at the Shah Alam Stadium, Safawi Rasid opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute with an explosive volley, prompting many to expect a by-the-book victory for the Young Tigers. However Zulkhairy Hady Razali equalised for the unfancied side in the 12th minute, breaking the hosts' offside trap and Brunei put up a strong performance to deny Malaysia's numerous chances, coupled with Malaysia's own lack of clinical finishing. It took Malaysia until the hour mark to finally find the lead and winning goal, when defender Adam Nor Azlin headed in Safawi's corner kick.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, Ong explained that despite the fact that his men laboured to defeat Brunei, it was only their first match in the campaign and they will be better in the coming encounters.
"It's normal. It's the first game of the tournament, the boys created a lot of chances and we knew that Brunei were going to make it very, very difficult for us and all their players were behind the ball.
"It's good that we managed to get the win and the second goal. Getting the three points in the first game is very important.
"We got caught, we knew that Brunei were going to come with counter-attacks and that was what happened. We fell asleep after we opened the scoring early in the game and made it very difficult for ourselves.
"Brunei players were behind the ball in their own area. That's why our back three had so much possession and everyone was going forward and chasing.
"I am not so concerned, I believe in the second or third game they will get much better," said Ong.
The former Malaysia senior team head coach also expressed his belief that the depth he possesses on the bench will assist the team in the coming matches.
"We have Thanabalan (Nadarajah), Akhyar (Abdul Rashid), the boys will come back strongly in the second game. I know them, the newcomers did well such as Safawi, Syamer Kutty and even Kumaahran (Sathasivam).
"I have players whom I can change at anytime," pointed out the 46-year old trainer.
The Young Tigers' next match will be on Wednesday, against their Causeway rivals Singapore at the Shah Alam Stadium.