BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe believes that his forward Akhyar Rashid will improve further in the coming months to strengthen the Harimau Malaya in the World Cup/Asian Cup qualification group stage.
He started in place of club teammate Safawi Rasid in their second leg first round play-off against Timor-Leste on Tuesday, and helped Malaysia record a 5-1 win, 12-2 on aggregate, and advance to the next round of the qualifiers, with his two assists and one goal. The 20-year old was picked as the man of the match by Goal, despite the limelight on Shahrel Fikri Fauzi thanks to his perfect hat-trick.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, Cheng Hoe reminded the media that although his defence failed to keep a clean sheet in either legs, the overall performance of his charges was convincing, especially in the attacking department.
"I'm very happy with my players who came on the pitch with the right attitude and gave their full concentration. The overall performance is the most important thing and I want them to improve further when they return to their clubs."
Asked about the most important aspect of his team's gameplay that he wants to see improve in the later stages, the former Kedah boss remarked that he wants them to transition quicker, from defending into attacking and vice versa.
"Keeping the ball well and having possession are important, but they must react faster when they lose the ball. Today we were repeatedly troubled by Timor-Leste's counter-attacks."
When asked to comment by Goal on Akhyar's performance, Cheng Hoe noted that the young player has shown confidence and growing importance to the team, but he needs to work harder to prepare to shoulder bigger responsibilities, including his fitness level.
"Akhyar played well tonight, but he needs to start realising that he's not a super-sub anymore. He should be starting matches in the future, because he needs the playing time in order to grow his confidence
"He's worked very, very hard to get to this level, but as I've told the players, they don't get to train long with the national team, so they need to get extra training with their clubs," he said.
The first group stage of the qualifiers will commence in September this year, with the draw set to take place next month. The back-to-back play-off wins and their two friendly wins earlier this year are believed to have been sufficient to allow the Harimau Malaya to climb up into pot four of the draw.
Pot 4— Footy Rankings (@FootyRankings) June 11, 2019
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