PETALING JAYA: Late-bloomer Darren Lok is expected to lead Malaysia’s attack in their 2019 Asian Cup qualifying round away match against Hong Kong on Oct 10.
The 26-year-old striker is likely to make the starting XI after Ahmad Hazwan Bakri was dropped following an injury. This leaves only Shahrel Fikri Mohd Fauzi as the other option upfront.
Darren, of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), missed most of the first half of the M-League season due to a niggling ankle injury picked up during his club’s pre-season training.
But he’s now back and said that he’s feeling sharper ahead of his ninth cap for Malaysia after scoring two goals from six appearances for his club.
“The more you play, the better you get. Luckily, I’ve gone back to JDT and played a lot more. I definitely feel sharper and that’s good,” said Darren, who was promoted to JDT from their Premier League side – JDT II – earlier this season.
“Nothing is confirmed yet as far I know. I’ll just focus on working hard in training for a spot in the national team’s starting XI.”
The Harimau Malaya must get a win at the Hong Kong Stadium if they are to stay in contention for the Finals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2019.
Coach Eduardo Vingada’s men are last in the four-team Group B of the Asian Cup qualifiers, with just a point from two matches.
Lebanon lead the group with seven points, while North Korea and Hong Kong are tied on two points from three matches.
Malaysia suffered an opening 2-1 defeat to Lebanon at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Baru on June 13 and were held to a 1-1 draw by Hong Kong in the home leg in Melaka on Sept 5.
Darren felt that the team did well to match the islanders, who have a large number of naturalised players in their ranks.
He admitted that Malaysia needed to be sharper and more clinical with their chances.
“Hong Kong’s naturalised player certainly gives them the physical edge but I thought we played some good football against them at home.
“We created some good attacking moves against them too,” said the English-born player, who received his Malaysian passport last year.
“We just need to cut out on individual errors and try to keep a clean sheet.”