United Arab Emirates (UAE) head coach Bert van Marwijk blamed the playing surface at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur following their 2-1 win over Malaysia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Syafiq Ahmad headed home to give Malaysia a 1-0 lead within the first minute of the game, but a brace from veteran forward Ali Mabkhout gave the Whites all three points from the Group G fixture in front the 43,200 spectators at the Bukit Jalil.
However, Van Marwijk, who had guided Netherlands to the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, wasn’t happy with the condition of the pitch at the stadium in the Malaysian capital despite being impressed by the stadium itself.
النجم علي مبخوت 🇦🇪 سجّل 5⃣ أهداف من أصل 1⃣1⃣ له في تصفيات كأس العالم في مرمى ماليزيا.
قبل هدفيه اليوم، سجل ⚽️⚽️⚽️ ثلاثية في المباراة التي فازت فيها الإمارات 10-0 على ماليزيا في عام 2015.@alimabkhout07 pic.twitter.com/sWBcBb0s4d
— @fifaworldcup_ar 🏆 (@fifaworldcup_ar) September 10, 2019
“Firstly, I want to congratulate you on the beautiful stadium, one of the most beautiful stadiums ever that I have seen in the world. Only it’s pity that you have this pitch, you cannot play really fast football, also for Malaysia. That’s a pity, but this is a beautiful stadium,” the UAE head coach said after the game.
Bukit Jalil’s playing surface has come under heavy criticism for a long time now with even Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe one of its critics during their first round tie against Timor-Leste in the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers back in June.
“I am very disappointed with the pitch. It does not suit the way we play. We had difficulties scoring because of it,” Cheng Hoe had said earlier. Malaysia Stadium Corporation chairman Tony Fernandes had later promised to improve the playing surface at the National Stadium within a year.
Meanwhile, speaking on the match, Marwijk said after having a bad start, his boys, ranked 65th in the world, managed to beef up the performance and bounce back against 159th ranked Malaysia after figuring out the tactical glitch on the left side defence.
UAE head coach also praised the Malaysian players for the fighting spirit they displayed against the superior opposition. “The moment [Cheng Hoe] started changing his players, they got more spirited, and I did not expect them to come back pressing the game in the last 15 minutes, but we worked very hard and at the end we are very happy to win here,” he said.
“Because I think there will not be many countries winning here,” the UAE boss said.