Midfield headache continues for OKS after opening reverse to Cambodia

The Malaysia head coach put on a brave front despite a lacklustre performance from his charges in the opening match of the 2019 AFF U22 Championship.

It wasn't the start that Ong Kim Swee or Malaysia wanted. On paper, it was a clash against arguably the weakest of the three opponents in the group and the 1-0 defeat is potentially damaging to Malaysia's hopes of progressing to the knockout stage of the competition.

Without many of the first choice players available, the starting XI that Kim Swee selected struggled to come to terms with a very difficult pitch. Cambodia employed a very high intensity game coupled with good pressing which caused Malaysia many a problems.

In the second half, Sath Rosib scored directly from a free kick that caught Haziq Nadzli napping, a goal which turned out to be the winner. It was Danial Haqim's mad high kick challenge which resulted in him earning his second yellow of the game that led to the concession of the free kick, Kim Swee adamant things could have been different had Danial kept his cool.

"Of course not good in terms of result and we didn't play that well. Congratulations to Cambodia who did well and made it difficult for us. But of course there were other aspects in the decisions made by officials, but what can we do. We just have to come back stronger in the second game."

"We started to play well especially when Nik Akif came in, moving the ball well in the middle. But unfortunate when you play with one man less, it's difficult for any team. It's a very good goal that they scored. If we had 11v11 after that, we still had a chance," said Kim Swee in the post-match press conference.

Ong Kim Swee, Cambodia v Malaysia, AFF U22 Championship, 18 Feb 2019

In the other match in the group, a 1-1 draw between Indonesia and Myanmar meant that Malaysia are not too far behind in the table despite the defeat. Malaysia will next take on Indonesia on Wednesday, and the experienced coach will have to juggle his team for that one.

Kelantan midfielder Nik Akif Syahiran could be introduced into the line-up right from the start as he looks to be the only capable player in the squad that can grab control of the match for Malaysia in the centre of midfield, something that was sorely lacking in the Cambodia match.

"For sure we have to make changes because we have problems with our midfield. Now Danial Haqim and Kogi are both out of the second game but there are players who can come in and do the job well. For the second game, we have to get a point, whether that's one or three points.

"It will be a normal game but an important one. We are only thinking of the game and not other issue. We know Indonesia played well in the draw against Myanmar but for us it's about getting a result and not concentrating on matters off the pitch," he added.


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