Malaysia skipper Safiq Rahim says his team will have to learn from the mistakes they made during their 2-1 defeat to Lebanon at home in their AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifying campaign opener on Tuesday. The Johor Darul Ta'zim midfielder says he is confident of the team's improvement under newly-appointed coach Eduardo Vinganda.
It was not the ideal start for the Portuguese tactician as the Malayan Tigers blew up their one-goal advantage after Lebanon winger Rabih Ataya struck two second half goals, including an added-time winner. The hosts, who were playing their first Asian Cup qualifying match after the fixture against North Korea was postponed twice, started the match well and were rewarded in the 43rd minute when Mahalli Jasuli opened the scoring for them.
However, Lebanon started the second half with a positive intent and kept putting pressure on the Malaysian backline. Skipper Safiq, who was playing his first match after coming back from international retirement, could not do much in the second half at at the Larkin Stadium. The Johor Darul Ta'zim midfielder was gracious in defeat, crediting Ataya for "changing the game" after what was a good first for the Tigers.
"Their number 20 (Rabih Ataya) is a very good player and caused us a lot of problems. He changed the game when he came in the second half. We could not maintain our momentum and advantage from the first half but we gave our best," Safiq said, as quoted by The Star.
"We also suffered from lapses of concentration and our confidence was low when Lebanon began pressuring us. We need to be more consistent, like how we played in the first half. But this is what we need to learn. This is a good lesson for us."
Safiq also pointed out that Vingada, who is also their first foreign coach since 2004, would need a bit more time to get used to the team. The Portuguese tactician came on board only as recently as 25 May after he had replaced former coach Ong Kim Swee, who had a disappointing result with Malaysia at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup. Notably, the team moved to their new training centre in Johor, which has state-of-the-art facilities.
"We cannot be negative with this result. The coach [Vinganda] has only had the full team for 10 days, so I am confident we can improve. The management and coaching staff have done their best, so we – the players – will have to do better," Safiq added.
Tuesday's loss saw Lebanon top the four-team group, which also has Hong Kong and North Korea. The Malaysian team, who have fallen to the last spot, will next play Hong Kong at home on 5 September in their first-round clash.