It was a bitter pill to swallow for Tan Cheng Hoe and his team after a humbling 2-0 defeat at the hands of Vietnam at My Dinh Stadium in the Group A clash of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup. The loss was Malaysia's first in the campaign after opening up the tournament with two successive wins over Cambodia and Laos respectively.
The Malaysia head coach made four changes to the side that beat Laos but still saw his players performed admirably in front of more than 40,000 fervent spectators in Hanoi. Despite holding the majority of the possession in the game, Malaysia struggled to break down a tough Vietnam defence.
Park Hang-seo opted for a 5-man defence with two defensive midfielders in front of them, which gave the home side plenty of cover and shield. It was quick counter attacks that caught Malaysia off guard on both occasions and Cheng Hoe was quick to admit that his team failed to adjust to the transition in play.
"Tonight (Friday) we played better than the last two games but because of the transition the players and how well they executed it, we conceded the goals. We had good ball possession but we just couldn't create enough of chances to score."
"We know that they have a fast and quick attack. Vietnam punished us dearly at the back. They played very well. But overall I'm satisfied with our performance and it's a lesson for the players," said Cheng Hoe after the match.
Vietnam's clinical finishing were obvious to see. Khairul Fahmi had literally little else to do apart from picking out two balls from his goal as the home side went for a very specific counter attacking strategy that relied on the pace and brilliance of star man, Nguyen Cong Phuong.
Malaysia will not be involved in the next set of fixtures in Group A before facing Myanmar in the final day of group action back in the comforts of the Bukit Jalil National Stadium. Cheng Hoe knows that it will be vital to get a win against Myanmar to have any hope of reaching the next stage of the competition.
"We've been playing good football and that won't change. The only thing is that we need to improve in the attacking third and make use of the opportunity in front of goal. Against Myanmar we have to go full swing and go for the win," he added.
With the next match more than a week away, Cheng Hoe has elected to give the squad a breather and they will have two days off before returning to training on Monday.
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