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Safiq puts defeat down to team's failure to maintain first half momentum

03:29 BST 14/06/2017
Safiq Rahim, Nelo Vingada, Malaysia, Lebanon, Asian Cup qualifier, 13/06/2017
Safiq Rahim vows that the team will improve in the next game as he puts his faith in the new national team set-up despite Tuesday's disappointment

Safiq Rahim's return to the international fold didn't turned out the way he would have wanted. A half time lead turned out to be for naught as Malaysia crumbled in the final quarter of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying match in Tuesday night's match.

Lebanon struck twice through substitute Rabih Ataya to condemn Malaysia to the bottom spot of Group B. Mahali Jasuli's surprise opener in the first half capped a solid and discipline performance from the home side in the opening period but failure to sustain the same intensity in the second half put paid to hopes of an opening win.

"We couldn't keep our momentum and advantage from the first half but we gave our best. Their number 20 [Rabih Ataya] gave us a lot of trouble and changed the game." 

"But this is what we need to learn and we cannot make anymore mistakes. We need to consistently play like we did in the first half. 

"It was lapse on our part. Our confidence when we are under pressure by the opponent. I hope this is used as a lesson for the team," said Safiq after the match.

Johor Darul Ta'zim's Safiq was at the centre of everything that Malaysia did well in the first half, orchestrating play from the middle as his team mates produced good movements around him. But like his fellow team mates, struggled to retain the same level of output and lack of calmness on the ball meant increased pressure on defence.

Nelo Vingada was forced to make two changes after Baddrol Bakhtiar and Syazwan Zainon both had to go off injured but surprisingly opted to put in Afif Amiruddin for the former when there were other midfield options on the bench like Syamim Yahya and Akram Mahinan.

A strange decision considering Afif nominally plays in the centre of defence and to use him in the midfield in such an important when the team was being put on the back foot by an increasingly confident Lebanon side - perhaps an indication that a level of trust or understanding of his players on Vingada's part, has yet to reach a good level.

"Anyone chosen by the coach need to give 100% commitment to the team. For me, there's no problem with who selected but just need to do our best when on the field."

"We cannot think negative. It's only 10 days that the coach has taken the full team and now the players know a bit what the coach's philosophy is and I'm confident we can build up the team well. Hopefully we can improve again after this."

"I'm confident in the coaching staff and management but it's down to us players. Me and my team mates will need to our best for the team and help the coach. They have already done their part and we have to do the same," added Safiq.

The national team will take on Hong Kong at home in September in the next fixture of the group stage, unless the postponed North Korea match is slotted in somewhere before that. Vingada is already targeting the break period during the South-East Asian Games as an opportunity to bring the team together again.

For a first match, the outcome leaves much to be desired but the it looks like Safiq and co are determined to right this wrong in the near future.