National coach K. Rajagobal congratulates Safee Sali after he scores against Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup first leg final in Bukit Jalil on Sunday. — Picture by Osman Adnan
JUST as his astute tactics have led to Malaysia on the verge of winning the AFF Suzuki Cup, coach K. Rajagobal expertly fended off an Indonesian inquisition yesterday.
Indonesian reporters had gathered at the team's hotel in Jakarta, hoping to get a provocative soundbite from Rajagobal.
But they were left with nothing more than a cryptic reply from the only local coach in the competition.
Their intention was clear -- to fire the despondent Indonesian fans into a frenzy against a common enemy.
But Rajagobal did not take the bait and instead expressed hope that tomorrow's final second leg will pass without incident.
The first leg had to be stopped for five minutes early in the second half after Indonesia goalkeeper Markus Rihihina instigated a near-walkout when he claimed a laser beam was directed at him.
"We respect the Indonesian team as they are a good side. Anything can happen in a final, so I will have to think about how to approach it.
"But mostly, we hope it will be a good game for the fans to enjoy.
"We have come here to put on our best performance and hope the fans will appreciate it," said Rajagobal just before his side began a light workout by the hotel pool.
When asked if Malaysia will employ a "park the bus" tactic to defend the 3-0 lead from Sunday's first leg, Rajagobal dismissed the notion.
"No team can defend for 90 minutes. We will play how I tell the players to play although I first have to see what is the condition of the players," added Rajagobal, who led the national Under-23 team to the Sea Games gold last year.
The last part of his statement referred to the replacements he needs to consider for suspended duo, Amirulhadi Zainal and Mahalli Jasuli.
Ashaari Samsuddin, who scored the second goal on Sunday, and Sabre Mat Abu look to be the likely replacements at right wing and right-back respectively.
Winger Khyril Muhymeen Zambri has not recovered sufficiently from a knee injury and will probably not feature.