Malaysia forward line a concern for Cheng Hoe, despite second consecutive win

Tan Cheng Hoe, Malaysia
The injury to Malaysia's goal scorer against Fiji, Syafiq Ahmad, necessitated some changes to the line up, and the hosts could only manage a slim win.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Malaysia defeated Fiji 1-0 in their friendly match on Thursday, but the slim won exposed the lack of depth in head coach Tan Cheng Hoe's attacking options.

The Harimau Malaya boss listed only three out-and-out forwards in the match; Syafiq Ahmad, Safawi Rasid and Shafiq Shaharudin, due to the unavailability of many other Malaysian top strikers.

JDT's Hazwan Bakri is injured as is former Malaysia U-23 star Thanabalan Nadarajah, while teenage star Akhyar Rashid is away at the AFF U-19 Championship, and Shahrel Fikri Fauzi is focusing on club football having joined Thai side Nakhon Ratchasima recently.

Kuala Lumpur forward Zaquan Adha Abd Radzak was listed in the match, but was sidelined as he is still nursing a fractured left hand. 

In the match that was held at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium, Syafiq opened the scoring in the 19th minute, his third goal in Malaysia's third consecutive match, but injured himself netting the goal and had to be taken off minutes later for Shafiq. However, the latter did not make a good account of himself on his Malaysian debut, and was substituted off by Cheng Hoe for winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor at the start of the second half. The hosts were not able to add to their first half goal, but succeeded in keeping a clean sheet to come away with a second consecutive win.

Malaysia vs Fiji match highlights

Speaking in the post-match press conference, Cheng Hoe remarked that he was happy with the win, although he added that his focus on the way the team performed.

At the start of the match, he had fielded five players who had featured for Malaysia U-23 in 2017.

"It was a tough game for us, as Fiji have better physique, but my men showed commitment to win the game. What's more important is that we could stick to our gameplan.

"The result and the scoreline is not a major concern for me at this moment," said the former Kedah head coach.

When asked about his charges' diminished attacking threat after the injury picked up by Syafiq, he acknowledged the issue, and responded that he will use the coming months to resolve it. 

"My team needs to work on their attack as a number of their final passes could not penetrate the opponents' defence. They need to keep playing short passes.

"Substitutions involving Syafiq, Shafiq and then Wan Zack necessitated some tactical changes, while Wan Zack is not a pure striker.

"Admittedly, our forwards were not clinical just now. But I have to stay positive, and keep working on this with the forwards. I need to them to play regularly for their clubs," said Cheng Hoe.


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