AFF CUP: Rajagobal must find way to neutralise their passing game
VIETNAM may have finally found a way to neutralise Malaysia's dominance in Southeast Asia and national coach K. Rajagobal must look for a solution before the AFF Cup.
With other nations watching closely, Malaysia have exactly three weeks to improve before their opening Group B match against Singapore in Kuala Lumpur.
Vietnam's football on Saturday was similar to Barcelona's 'tiki-taka' game, a style which evolved from Total Football and made famous by the Spanish club, who rely on short passing to keep possession before working the ball through various channels for goals.
As a result, Malaysia again failed to score against Vietnam as the AFF Cup champions lost 1-0 to their under-strength opponents through Nguyen Trong Hoang's goal in the 74th minute in Hanoi.
Vietnam have now lost only one of their last nine matches, which includes the 2-0 win over Malaysia in September.
Rajagobal's formidable side only played well in patches but could have won if Safee Sali and Safiq Rahim had scored from set-pieces in the first half. Vietnam fielded an experimental side as several key players were injured.
"We should have scored from the set-pieces. I saw some positives. My players kept pressing for a goal," said Rajagobal in Hanoi on Saturday.
"Despite being only a friendly, both teams battled hard. I hope my young players will learn from this experience. Vietnam played a well-oiled game and got close to scoring a few times."
Rajagobal was also impressed by Vietnam's possessive play in midfield.
"They are small physically but controlled the ball well and created chances. But we adjusted and did better as the match progressed."
Vietnam coach Phan Thanh Hung said his fringe players did not let him down on Saturday.
"We did a nice job of getting the lead, putting pressure on them and then defended that lead well till the end. I thought our fitness was excellent.
"We played short passing to keep possession and it worked. If we keep playing like this, we will be strong contenders in the AFF Cup."
Malaysia play Thailand in Bangkok tomorrow and Hong Kong on Nov 14 before Rajagobal names his 22-man squad for the AFF Cup.