Harimau Malaya need to step up after narrow win over Turkmenistan, says Pan Gon

KUALA LUMPUR: No complaint about the result, but performance-wise, there are rough edges to smoothen out in the Harimau Malaya team.

That is the takeaway from national coach Kim Pan Gon in Malaysia's 1-0 win over Turkmenistan in a friendly at the Stadium Sultan Ibrahim on Thursday.

Midfielder Akhyar Rashid netted the winner in the 29th minute as world No. 145 Malaysia beat 135th-ranked Turkmenistan. In comparison, last June, Malaysia defeated the Emerald Greens 3-1 in an Asian Cup qualifier at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Pan Gon said Turkmenistan, led by their new coach Mergen Orazov, fought hard and their goalkeeper Rasul Charyyev did well to prevent Malaysia from scoring more goals.

The South Korean coach said the Malaysian team will need to step up to meet his demands.

"I congratulate the players, we won against a 135th-ranked team, I'm very proud of them, we convinced ourselves that we are at this level.

"I believe this match was tougher than the one last June. They were physically strong and I feel they were better prepared for this game compared with the last match.

"How long can we maintain this consistency? It demands physical, mental, discipline and teamwork... some players had cramps.

"I demand a lot in running, pressing and transition. Some couldn't catch up, we have to improve, it's very important.

"It's the beginning of the season, so they have not played many games. I believe we'll be better. The conditions were tough, it was the first day of Ramadan, and overall we won against a good side," said Pan Gon.

Pan Gon has added eight new faces to the national team, including naturalised players Paulo Josue and Endrick Dos Santos, defender Muhamad Feroz Baharudin and Finland-based midfielder Nooa Laine.

In their next friendly, Harimau Malaya will take on Hong Kong at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium next Tuesday as part of their preparations for next year's Asian Cup in Qatar.

"We will give the other players a chance in the Hong Kong game. We need to improve our passing, we expect more in this area, and it has to be done fast as we will play against stronger opponents in the Asian Cup.

"Feroz (Baharuddin), Endrick (Dos Santos, Fayadh (Zulkifli), Nooa Laine, and Paulo (Josue) are new to the team, and it will take time for them to adapt to our tactics," said Pan Gon.

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