Malaysia showed some promising signs in their opening final round qualifier for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup but many problems still remain after the nation’s first match under new coach Nelo Vingada.
When the vastly experienced Portuguese coach was appointed last month, freshly minted FAM President Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said he looked forward to a period of ‘new-found success’ but on the evidence at Larkin Stadium on Tuesday evening that may have to wait a while.
Two late goals may have sunk the Tigers but in reality Lebanon were the better side throughout and if not for a world-class goalkeeping howler the hosts may well have been kept scoreless.
The reality though is that it was always going to take time for Vingada to shape the side as he wanted and with this squad selected by his assistant and with barely a fortnight to assess and even less time to work with the group it’s understandable that there were some areas of concern.
FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the positives and negatives from Malaysia’s loss.
Defensive Organisation: Given the limited time that Vingada had to prepare the side the emphasis was always likely to be on where it is when most new coaches arrive and that’s in trying to make sure that the structure when not in possession is sound.
For the most part that was the case with the space between the back four and the advanced midfield five generally quiet narrow and the players working hard as a unit in their lateral movement to keep Lebanon shuffling from side to side.
Work Rate: On the handful of occasions that the team lost possession with larger numbers committed higher up the pitch they worked hard to recover quickly and dropped back into their defensive shape in time to limit the chances that Lebanon had to play on the counter.
PRESS CONFERENCE SESSION AND PRE-MATCH MEETING | MALAYSIA VS LEBANON
— FA Malaysia (@FAM_Malaysia) June 12, 2017
Whilst the overall fitness of what’s an ageing squad did seem a concern at least the ‘effort’ was there from the players and it’s that hard work that should have pleased Vingada.
Some solid individual showings: Prior to his second half withdrawal Syazwan Zainon on the left wing showed some nice flashes when looking to be positive and attack his opposing fullback and he’s one of a very limited number of players in this squad capable of changing things by himself and that creativity should be encouraged.
Elsewhere, Amirulhadi Zainal showed some decent touches in the deep-lying ‘screening role’ and Shahrom Kalam made some crucial interceptions at the heart of the back four but overall there were no real standout performers on the evening.
Distribution from the back hurried and wasted: Time and time again we saw goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid simply pump the ball long from both goal kicks and when receiving the ball from the backline, and on most of those occasions there was very little pressure being applied.
It was one of those hopeful punts that flew over the touchline that led to the second goal and the first too came from a reluctance from right back Rizal Ghazali to try and play forward, rather touching the ball back to his keeper whose long pass again turned over possession and led to the free-kick from which Lebanon scored.
Inability to maintain possession: Much of the lack of time in possession came from those wayward moments in being unable to play out from the back but far too often when the ball was in midfield the passing radar was off and the runs off the ball were either stilted or not seen. Passes were also too often made to players that were tightly marked and with little option to keep the ball moving.
Crucially though that shift of play from defence into midfield is the major area of concern that Vingada must look to address ahead of the remaining qualifiers or else Malaysia will always be working overtime to try and win back the ball.
Fitness levels a concern: Despite the strong mentality to keep working hard it was clear that the side tired as the match wore on and there were a combination of factors at play here, some outside of football. Even so, with the squad leaning very heavily towards veteran players it could have been wiser to inject some fresher, younger, legs rather than the fellow ageing replacements we saw as the contest unfolded over the second half.
Overall, this was a solid but not especially illuminating showing in the new manager’s first match in charge but not a great deal more should have been expected.
The main challenge now will be for Vingada to stand as his own man in a political structure that often favours a handful of clubs and players and select a squad for his next matches that he is totally comfortable with, not one where he’s being guided and led by other ‘factors.’
This could – and indeed should – spell the end of several international careers as younger players are handed a chance and the coach then has his ‘own’ players with which to help iron out some of the problems and build on the positives that we saw in this first-up showing.
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