BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Following Malaysia's 3-0 win over Myanmar in their Group A 2018 AFF Championship match on Saturday, head coach Tan Cheng Hoe has hailed the improvements shown by his side.
The comprehensive win, obtained through goals scored by Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (26') and Zaquan Adha (p. 45+3', 88'), has allowed the Harimau Malaya to reach the semi-finals at the expense of the Asian Lions.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, Tan praised the professional way with which his men edged the visitors at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
"It was important that we led the game first, it gave the team confidence while Myanmar's counter attacks were looking dangerous. The players showed their true characters as well as fighting spirit.
"But I believe we can improve further in the coming matches. We are now in the semis, we have to keep our focus and the momentum," he remarked.
When asked by Goal whether he is concerned that his younger strikers such as Safawi Rasid and Akhyar Rashid have not found the back of the net yet, he responded that they too will improve further in the knockout stage.
All seven of Malaysia's goals in the tournament so far have been netted by experienced strikers Norshahrul (four) and Zaquan (three). The former is 32 years old while the latter is one year his junior.
"It's a team game, so it does not matter much who gets the goals," he pointed out.
"Sure, Safawi and Akhyar have not been scoring, but they have been working very hard in training, have shown better confidence, helped the team and gave their very best."
The former Kedah boss lastly paid tribute to the home fans, who mobilised en masse to the venue to back his team. At final count, 83,773 were present at Bukit Jalil, the biggest match attendance in this edition so far.
"Every time we come to Bukit Jalil, we come knowing that the fans will be there as well to back us all the way.
"Getting this fervent support is always a plus for us, especially with the fans coming from near and far wanting to see the team perform well. And my men rightly repaid this passion with tonight's win," Tan said.
As Group A runners up, Tan's charges will face Group B winners in the semis. Malaysia's first leg semi-final encounter will be played at Bukit Jalil, next Saturday, December 1. Group B final round of matches will be played later today.
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In Phnom Penh they took a tuk-tuk convoy to the stadium. Back home in Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia's must-win @affsuzukicup clash against Myanmar, Ultras Malaya took the LRT to the Bukit Jalil and made the coaches theirs. We followed them to see how it went down. Di Phnom Penh mereka berkonvoi tuk-tuk ke stadium. Di laman sendiri Kuala Lumpur bagi perlawanan penentuan Piala AFF Malaysia menentang Myanmar, Ultras Malaya bikin huru-hara dengan 'menawan' LRT ke Bukit Jalil. Kami ekori Sang Ekor, saksikan rakamannya.