After getting on the scoresheet in the opening match of the AFC U-23 qualifiers last month, Syafiq Ahmad was unable to repeat the feat in the SEA Games as Malaysia laboured to a 2-1 win over Brunei.
Syafiq who has been in good scoring form for the team, looked a pale shadow of himself usual self in Monday night's match. While still provided an energetic effort, his usual touch and shooting accuracy deserted him on the night.
He had one specific chance in the first half after Safawi Rasid's free kick had struck the bar, but his timing for his jump on the rebound was way off and that set the tone for the rest of the match. Ultimately, it didn't matter as Malaysia secured all three points but Syafiq knows that they have to improve in the coming matches.
"Overall we looked like we could play but our finishing was not with us today. We have improved since Bangkok but we need to convert those chances."
"We didn't take Brunei lightly. They were defending deep and maybe in one moment, we weren't completely focus and they punished us," said Syafiq after the match.
Although Syafiq looked lacklustre going forward, one thing that he did not abandon was his defensive duties. Even though Malaysia generally hold most of the possession, Syafiq was there to support Syazwan Andik on the occasional Brunei foray into Malaysia's defence.
Singapore will be Malaysia's next opponent and they are expected to offer a much stiffer challenge for Syafiq and co, than Brunei. With the match coming less than 48 hours after the Brunei one, it will be about recovery and training is very much focus on the mind and mental state of the players.
For what it's worth, a hard-fought win can sometimes be the right push for a team to step it up in their next match.