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Tan praises resilient Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe was unreserved in his praise of his players after the 2-0 win over Indonesia in the Asian Qualifiers on Tuesday.

Muhammad Safawi Rasid was the star of the night with two wonderful goals but Tan said all his players contributed to the victory as Malaysia made it two wins on the trot, having beaten Thailand 2-1 in their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifier on Thursday.

The win, coupled with Vietnam and Thailand playing to a goalless draw in Hanoi, saw Malaysia move up to second in the Group G standings on nine points from three wins and two defeats.

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“It was a brilliant performance from the boys following a slow start," said a delighted Tan.

"We did not settle down fast enough in the opening minutes but we managed to score a goal to set the tempo."

Indonesia had, despite Malaysia being backed by 80,000 fans at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, held their own as they came close on a number of occasions.

That, however, changed when Safawi fired home a wicked free-kick in the 30th minute from some 30 yards out.

His second was a beauty as well, as he outmuscled Indonesia captain Rudolof Yanto Basna to score from an acute angle in the 73rd minute.

Malaysia then survived a late scare after goalkeeper Farizal Marlias brought down Febri Hariyadi in the 81st minute.

The custodian, only on due to an injury suffered by Khairulazhan Mohd Khalid in the first half, redeemed himself by saving Osas Marvellous Ikpefua’s spot-kick.

“Safawi scored two brilliant goals but everyone in the team also did their part to record this win. I am proud of the mental resilience they showed against an Indonesian side who made it very difficult for us.

"My players were quick to recover whenever they lost the ball and were fully focused," added Tan.

Up next for Malaysia will be United Arab Emirates on March 26, with Tan's squad having to travel for a showdown with a side who narrowly edged them 2-1 in September.

Photos: Football Association of Malaysia

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