Malaysia recovered from the poor defeat to Chinese Taipei last week to carve out a solid 1-3 win over Cambodia on Monday night but it did not come without it's difficulties. Tan Cheng Hoe's men were swarmed right from the kick off and struggled for most parts of the first half.
Cambodia opened the scoring with a well taken set piece routine through Hong Pheng as Malaysia's defence were caught napping with their positioning. Nasir Basharudin was forced off with an injury and debutant Azzizan Nordin came into midfield, that proving to be the starting point of Malaysia's revival.
The team looked more composed on the ball after that and started to wrest control of the match away from the home side, albeit without threatening the Cambodian goal a great deal. It was the second half replacements that helped shape a comeback win for Tan with Shahrel Fikri in particular, putting in a man-of-the-match performance.
"The players bounced back with a better performance today even though we conceded an early goal. I have to compliment the players for their fighting spirit. I want to see the players in future to be more composed playing in front of a partisan crowd."
"Yes (substitutions had an impact), because some of the players played in the Asian Games and the Chinese Taipei game. So when fresh players came in, it gave an impact on the game. There's a lot of positives in our team but also a lot of weakness. We still have October and November to prepare further for the Suzuki Cup," said Tan in the post-match press conference.
Tan's opposite number, Keisuke Honda was in his managerial debut and a strong approximate 40,000 fans turned up to see his first outing. There was a wave of confidence in the home side buoyed by the fans and not dampened by the continuous downpour that delayed the start of the match.
Having seen the impact first hand, Tan acknowledged that when Malaysia go back to Phnom Penh for the first group match of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup later this year, it will be a more testing match for the Malayan Tigers especially after Honda is able to work with the players for a longer period.
"Maybe because of their new coaching setup, it's not easy for the players. I'm sure when the Suzuki Cup campaign starts, Cambodia will not make it an easy game for us. I hope my players can take a positive experience from this match when we return here for the competition."
"Can see that the players are really motivated and fought for every ball. My players had to absorb the pressure and play according to the tactical way we've been playing," added Tan.