Malaysia had managed to hold their own against Syria for most parts but a late collapse enabled the World Cup chasing side to grab two quick goals that caused the Malayan Tigers their second defeat under Nelo Vingada. This international friendly is the first of three matches to prepare the team before the important Asian Cup qualifier against Hong Kong on September 5.
Having suffered a debut defeat against Lebanon back in June, another defeat is what is preferred for Vingada himself but a slim 1-2 defeat to a side that is 86 places higher than Malaysia in the FIFA rankings can be construed as a decent result as the Portuguese head coach get to know his players a bit more.
There were 11 new players called up to the squad this time around and Vingada is pleased with their contribution thus far since the training camp started. He intends to give everyone a chance and to see if these players can make the step up to challenge for a place in the starting line-up.
"After 5 days of work in this training camp, what I watched today compared to previous camp, I can say the team is improving. Today, even though it's a loss and nobody like a loss but we played against a good team in the qualification for the World Cup. They are another level to us."
"These friendlies games are important to give us options for the important matches. When we start changing some players, maybe the team wasn't so compact. But it's my obligation to give chance and to see what some boys can do because nobody can play with only 11 players.
"Even though not satisfied with the result, I'm happy the players have good attitude. Some players made very good game," said Vingada after the match.
Pahang's Kiko Insa was given a starting berth in central midfield, deployed in the deepest role as the screen in front of the defence. Insa was his industrial self, winning a lot of aerial balls as well as putting in his fair shift of tackles.
He was taken off after 60 minutes but Vingada brushed it off down to his fitness level more than the worry of him collecting a second yellow card.
"He played one hour and he brought for the team a good balance and a special protection for the central defence, winning many balls in the air and he's a quality player. But in the last month and a half, he played only one game for Pahang and another 20 minutes. So we can say he lost his rhythm of the game."
"But if today was an official game, for sure he will play until the end of the game. He will now need to recover but he'll need more game time to get his rhythm back. Generally I'm very happy with the integration of him into the team which help bring some solutions. I believe also, even though not seen today, he will be threat from corner kicks," enthused Vingada.
Another debutant in the match was PKNP FC's Shahrel Fikri. The winger had been a revelation in the Premier League this season, spearheading PKNP's promotion challenge and is the only player outside of the Super League to be called up.
Shahrel was put on in place of Syazwan Zainon in the 66th minute and it came at a time when Malaysia made numerous changes which disrupted the rhythm for the home side. While he wasn't allowed too much time to show his worth, Vingada remains pleased with what he has seen of Shahrel on the training ground.
"He's playing in the Premier League which is the second level of Malaysian football. We had good reference about him and we were following him. Coach Tan [Cheng Hoe] also know him very well."
"He's fast but of course it's not easy for a player coming from the Premier League to play against Syria. During the training camp, he's improving well and getting along well with the colleague. This means that the national is a house for any player, as long as they are good players and are proud to represent the country," explained Vingada.
Since the defeat against Lebanon, Vingada and his coaching staff has been going around the country looking a new options but against Syria, he only made two changes from the previous match - with Insa and Aidil Zafuan coming in for Mahali Jasuli and Fadhli Shas respectively.
For Vingada, that is down to purely the first XI being very close to the best of what the country can offer but is adamant that the 11 new faces is giving him plenty of options from the bench that can be crucial in the oming games.
Those players are expected to be given a chance in the next match against Macau but there may also be late inclusion before the Hong Kong match as Vingada is eyeing some players who are currently participating in the 2017 KL SEA Games.
"I believe the players of the first XI is there. We changed two players today with Kiko and Aidil. Amirulhadi today played more in front, so maybe you can say two new players but three new positions. Now I feel looking at our squad, I feel we have more solutions."
"Today I was looking at our bench and I feel we have more now. There are some players in the Under-22 who cannot be involved because of the SEA Games but maybe after that, we have a possibility of taking on one or two players from there," added Vingada.