BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Having returned from a relatively successful three-friendly series in China earlier this month, Datuk Ong Kim Swee's Malaysia U22 were brought down to earth, when they were beaten by Super League side Melaka United 5-1 in a friendly on Thursday.
The Young Tigers, who are in the midst of preparations for the 2018 U23 AFC Championship qualifiers in July, and the 2017 SEA Games in August, opened the scoring as early as the third minute through Safawi Rasid, but Surendran Ravindran equalised for the Mousedeers five minutes before halftime. That opened the floodgates, and the hosts' mid-season foreign signing, Marko Simic showcased his potential by scoring four goals in the second half (46', 49', 64', 66').
Melaka United vs Malaysia U22 match highlights
Speaking to the press after the match, Kim Swee put the defeat down to the fatigue experienced by his charges and their loss of focus.
"We were able to put up a fight and attack in the first half, but in the second we lost our focus and conceded two early goals which made things hard for us.
"The players were also fatigued after a packed schedule in the past two days, which is another factor for the defeat," he explained.
Although when asked by the press, Kim Swee responded that none of his players were injured, he said that the defeat is not a reflection of his side's strengths.
"None of my players are injured, they are all fit, but we still have a lot of work to do.
"The defeat today was not a true representation of the team's strengths," claimed the 2011 SEA Games gold-winning coach.
However, when asked about the final squad list and his first eleven, Kim Swee said that he will only do so before they depart for the AFC qualifiers next month.
While in China, the former Malaysia senior team boss had said that he would announced it a few days after the friendly match against Melaka.
"It's still too early, and we're still in the process of building the team. The first eleven will only be determined during the second phase, before we depart for the AFC Championship in Bangkok.
"The final squad list will only be revealed after the final training session before we depart for Bangkok, on July 17," said Kim Swee.
The Young Tigers players will now take a break for the Aidilfitri celebration and return to their respective clubs for the resumption of the M-League and the kick-off of the 2017 Malaysia Cup. They will then begin the second phase centralised training camp on July 5.