Monday, 10 December 2012

We deserved better: Rajagobal

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal lauded his players for their performance against Thailand on Sunday and felt that the defending champions deserved better than the 1-1 draw that they managed in the first leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final. 

Injuries forced Rajagobal to make four changes to his starting line-up from their 2-0 win over Indonesia last Saturday with Bunyamin Umar, Amar Rohidan, Gary Steven Robbat and Baddrol Bakhtiar drafted in to replace Zubir Azmi and the injured trio of Shakir Shaari, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and Safee Sali.

However, his makeshift side took the lead through Norshahrul Idlan Talaha early in the second half and had chances to extend their advantage before Teerasil Dangda equalised with 11 minutes left at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

Despite his disappointment at the final result, especially after late misses by substitute Safee and Norshahrul, Rajagobal was nonetheless pleased with his team’s overall performance against the tournament favourites.

“I think tonight was one of the best matches that the boys played. If you look at the match overall, I think that we deserved to win at least by a score of 3-1,” said the Harimau Malaya boss.

“I could not ask for more because we started out without some of our core players who were injured and I had to come up with some kind of game plan. I think that overall, the boys played a good match and if you look at the shots and chances, we were the more attacking side and we had more penetration on goal.

“I think that we probably surprised Thailand. I don’t think that they expected us to play such a match and I can’t ask for more. We have to be optimistic because we know that we will have a very tough match in Thailand but we have no choice and we have to go there and try to play our very best. It can go either way even though from the start, everybody was saying that Thailand were the favourites.

“It was a really good match and I can’t complain about it either way. If Safee Sali or Norshahrul had scored at the end, we could have got the win but overall, I think that this was the best match that the boys had played.”

Rajagobal explained that his decision to bring on Safee and winger K.Gunanlan with 15 minutes left to replace Baddrol and Robbat was a tactical move as he sought to give his team a bigger advantage to take into Thursday’s second leg at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok.

“As the game was going on and the back four was pushing, I was thinking that it was the right time to do something to put pressure on Thailand and try to get a second goal. That was the reason I brought on Kunanlan and Safee Sali,” said Rajagobal.

That move may not have worked out well with Teerasil equalising shortly afterwards but Rajagobal felt that his players had not let him down.

“I think that tonight was one of Norshahrul’s best games. He was fantastic and I think that he performed better than Teerasil, if you ask me,” opined the Malaysia coach.

“I think that we kept Jakkapan (Pornsai) and Datsakorn (Thonglao) quiet for much of the game and our midfield did well to shut down Phichitpoing (Choeichiu) and Adul (Lahsoh). I think that they played well and also on the flanks, Azamuddin (Akil) was putting pressure on Theerathon (Bunmathan) and we were also giving problems to Piyaphon (Buntao).

“Overall, I am very proud of the boys and we will see what we need to do for the second leg. The game is still open and you never know but the reality is that they are a strong team and now they will be playing at home.

“I have to tell the boys to forget about tonight and just go and enjoy the second leg and try to get a result. You never know, football is funny, but overall, I think that we deserved to win the game tonight but it didn’t happen and I can’t expect more.”

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