PETALING JAYA – By K. RAJAN: National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal has expressed concern over his strike force after suffering a 4-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in a friendly match at the Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday.
The Saudi goals were scored by Yousef Al Salem (7th), Yahya Al Shehri (29th), Naif Hazazi (88th) and Hamdan Al Hamdan (92nd). Malaysia’s consolation goal came from midfielder Mohd Safiq Rahim in the 70th minute.
Norshahrul Idlan Tahala was the last striker to score for Malaysia and his goal came in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals when Malaysia were held to a 1-1 draw by Thailand last December.
Since then, Rajagopal’s forwards have failed to score on three occasions – the 3-0 loss to Iraq in a friendly, the 2-0 loss to Qatar in the Asian Cup Group D qualifying match last month and the defeat to Saudi Arabia.
Rajagopal pointed out that the local strikers in the M-League are not making their mark as the top scorers’ chart is dominated by foreign players.
The 56-year-old coach also said that injury to regular striker Mohd Safee Sali had blunted his strike force.
“Our goal against the Saudis came from a midfielder … I’m concerned with our strikers but at the moment Norshahrul is the only natural striker available,” said Rajagopal in the post-match press conference on Sunday.
“As you can see in the M-League, the local strikers are not on form and it is limiting the selection option for the national team. It’s a problem and I hope the players available will buck up.”
Commenting on his teams defeat to the 106th world ranked Saudis, Rajagopal said that he “accepts the defeat and that they were beaten by a better team.”
The former international added that the match gave him an idea on his game plan against Yemen in a crucial Asian Cup qualifying Group D match on Friday.
“We played well in patches. I’m happy with the players performance despite the defeat. This match gave us a valuable insight into our strength and weakness before we play Yemen,” he added.
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