sepang: National coach Tan Cheng Hoe couldn’t contain his emotion after Malaysia beat Indonesia 3-2 in the second round of the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asia Cup Group G qualifying opener at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.
The 51-year-old, who hardly praises his team, said it was one of the best matches in his career as a coach.
“The team were nervous in the first half because all the players except for Mat Yo (Norshahrul Idlan Talaha) were playing in Gelora Bung Karno for the first time, ” said Cheng Hoe.
“But it all changed in the second half as the boys were focused and produced a fantastic performance. They showed great strength and tenacity to pull off an important away win.
“It was one of their best performances, and as a coach, I want them to bring this momentum against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday (Sept 10).”
Pahang winger Mohamadou Sumareh proved to be the man of the hour as the 24-year-old, who came in as a substitute in the 35th minute, scored Malaysia’s first goal a minute later and the winner in the dying stages of the match.
Striker Syafiq Ahmad scored Malaysia’s second goal in the 66th minute.
Indonesia’s goals were scored by their naturalised striker Beto Goncalves in the 11th and 38th minute.
“This is the first time that I made an early change for tactical reasons. I replaced Hadin for Mo (Sumareh) in the 35th minute because he could not handle the pressure.
“Sumareh came in and changed the game. He made an immediate impact by scoring and also showed great responsibility in our fightback.”
Cheng Hoe was proud to see his boys bounce back after their nervy first-half performance.
“I’ve to compliment them. It’s never easy to get a win in Jakarta. During the break, the boys sat down and regrouped. We made a few tweaks and returned to the field – all energised in the second half.
“Before entering the field, I assured my boys that they did not have to worry about their safety in the stadium.
“The FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) and PSSI (The Football Association of Indonesia) had given their word that our team will be protected at all times.
“We needed a good result to kickstart our qualifying campaign, and this win is just perfect.”
But Cheng Hoe reminded the players that it was only the beginning as many hurdles were ahead of them.
“Winning one game doesn’t mean they have experienced it all. To be the best, we need to play consistent top-level football. We will celebrate, but there is more work ahead.”
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