ISKANDAR PUTERI, March 24 — National head coach Kim Pan Gon questioned the ability of his players in maintaining optimal performance after Malaysia beat Turkmenistan 1 – 0 in a Tier One international friendly match at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium here last night.
The 53-year-old South Korean said high-intensity matches like the one against Turkmenistan demanded mental and physical strength, as well as high discipline and teamwork.
Kim said he demanded a lot from the players and saw some of them struggling to keep pace. However, he did not rule out the possibility that it was because it was still at the beginning of the season and playing in the fasting month.
“I have no complaints but how long can we maintain this kind of game? This kind of game demands physical, mental (strength), discipline and teamwork. I demand a lot of running, pressing and transition; some (players) cannot catch up, so we have to improve because game fitness is very important.
“I understand this is the beginning of the season and they have played only a few games. Also, the weather condition was tough, humid, and it is the first day of Ramadan. Overall we won against the 135th-ranked team consecutively. I think we will be better in June and September, hopefully,” he told a press conference after the match here.
In the clash at the home ground of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), Harimau Selatan winger Muhammad Akhyar Abdul Rashid emerged as the hero of Pan Gon’s squad after scoring the winning goal in the 29th minute.
This is Malaysia’s second victory over Turkmenistan after defeating The Green 3 – 1 in Group E action of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil in June last year.
“I feel they were a little bit tougher from the last June; physically they were stronger. I think they did better preparation this time. It was a tough match and we committed some mistakes. But it was good, if only we could score three or four goals,” he said.
Kim also praised Turkmenistan goalkeeper Rasul Charyyev for his brilliant performance to deny the national team some of their best chances throughout the 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, Turkmenistan head coach Mergen Orazov, who was appointed last month, was satisfied despite losing his first match on the international stage with the national team.
“We came here a bit late and our league has not started yet, so physically the players are not fully fit yet. Yes, a lot of passion but their fitness level is not top yet. I told my players losing in the first game is good for us, so that we don’t relax too much. I believe this team can achieve great things.
“Malaysia is a solid team and has great players. That is why we chose to play Malaysia. A lot of things to learn and develop considering the quality that the team has,” the 34-year-old coach said.