- By SHAMSHUL FITRI -
SHAH ALAM: National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal did not mince his words when he said he wanted nothing less than a win against Yemen in the 2015 Asian Cup qualifier Group D match at the Shah Alam Stadium today.
Having suffered a 2-0 loss to Qatar last month, it is a must-win situation for Rajagopal and his men if they want an easier route to the Finals in Australia. A defeat or a draw tonight means Malaysia will have to win all four remaining matches in the group to qualify.
But Malaysia will be up for a drab match against the lower ranked Yemenis (170 in FIFA ranking, Malaysia are at 164), as Yemen’s head coach Tom Saintfiet said he would be happy with a draw.
Yemen are also in the same predicament as Malaysia as they lost their opening group match to Bahrain 2-0 last month.
“It will be an important match for both teams after the results of the first match and I would settle for a point here,” said the Belgian coach.
“ I prefer a win but it will not be easy for us.”
Rajagopal already knows that the heat is on for his team to deliver a win after a four-match losing streak since the AFF Suzuki Cup 3-1 aggregate semi-final defeat to Thailand last December.
“When we play at home, I want nothing less than a win. The players realise this and will take the responsibility on the field and we will play with more intensity,” said Rajagopal.
Rajagopal have many options in the midfield with the return of K. Gurusamy and Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor from injury. Besides, Mohd Badhri Radzi and Shakir Shaari are also available to partner Safiq Rahim in the middle of the park.
However, Rajagopal now has a major headache in the goal scoring department. The strike force, led by Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, has been firing blanks in the last three matches.
It is also the same problem faced by Saintfiet, who did not wax lyrical about his team when he revealed his strikers have failed to score in 11 matches.
“My strikers are not taking their chances and having good strikers in the team is like owning a diamond. But it doesn’t matter who scores … even if my goalkeeper scores tomorrow (today) I would be happy. We will get opportunities to score from set-pieces and corners,” said Saintfiet.
With one team ready to take the field with guns blazing for three points and another hoping to settle for a draw, the outcome could be anyone’s guess.
But should Malaysia fail to deliver today, some knives are already on the sharpening block.
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