Coach delighted as our players fought hard till the very end

Tan Cheng Hoe

KUALA LUMPUR – Harimau Malaya head coach Tan Cheng Hoe was pleased to see his charges record a vital 1-0 win against Thailand in their 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second round qualification campaign at the Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai on Tuesday night (early morning Wednesday in Malaysia).

Cheng Hoe hailed his players’ fantastic performance and commitment as they came away with all three points in a do-or-die match against the Thais, thus ensuring the national squad a direct spot in the next round of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

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“It was indeed a very tough match for us…The players fought very hard as they tried to stop Thailand from scoring until the referee blew the (final) whistle,” he told the post-match press conference in Dubai, as shared by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) today.

Second-half substitute Muhammad Safawi Rasid was the hero for the Harimau Malaya when he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute.

Despite the win, the 53-year-old coach was left to rue on a few wasted opportunities to kill off the game comfortably against Akira Nishino’s side.

This is Cheng Hoe’s second win over Thailand, extending his unbeaten run against The War Elephants to four matches since taking charge in December 2017.

In the meantime, Cheng Hoe believed that his players will surely gain valuable experience and learn a big lesson following their failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup but the former Kedah coach vowed to emerge stronger for their upcoming challenge in the next round of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Safawi was more than happy to see his teammates’ effort as they played all their part to ensure Harimau Malaya roared again and ignited their 2023 Asian Cup hopes.

In another Group G match, the UAE ended Vietnam’s seven-match unbeaten run with a 3-2 win at the Zabeel Stadium.

Malaysia, thus, ended their Group G qualifying campaign in third spot with 12 points, with the UAE on top with 18 points and Vietnam second on 17 points.

Thailand ended up fourth with nine points while Indonesia remained rooted at the bottom with just one point.