‘Malaysia showed character’ – Steve Darby

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There is still hope and Malaysia must not give away this chance at all costs at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi in the second leg AFF Suzuki Cup final this Saturday.
Despite the thrilling 2-2 draw at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday, the tremendous fighting spirit and never say die attitude of Harimau Malaya caught the eye of many, not only in the country and this region but also in far away London.
And one man who watched the match live on television was none other than the widely traveled Englishman Steve Darby – who has coached the national teams of Bahrain, Vietnam (women’s team that won the 2001 Sea Games football gold), Thailand and the Thailand Under-23 team and Laos.
 
Darby, who needs no introduction to Malaysian football having coached Johor, Perak and Kelantan, also had coaching stints with Sydeny Olympics, Home United (Singapore), Mohun Bagan and Mumbai FC (India).
 
He described the first-leg final at Buki Jalil as “an excellent game played at great pace and both teams deserve praise” as Malaysia fought back from 2-0 down to force a stalemate.
 
“An excellent result for Vietnam, they only need a draw now at My Dinh. If you had asked before the game would you take a 2-2 draw they would have said yes.
 
“They (Vietnam) counter attacked well and looked quicker than the Malaysians, especially the forwards,” said Darby from London after the match, adding the criticism would be giving away stupid free kicks.
 
Darby was obviously referring to Malaysia’s goals from free kicks in the 36th minute through Shahrul Saad off a free kick by Syamer Kutty Abba and Safawi Rasid got the second on 61 minutes also via a free kick.
 
“Both the goals for Malaysia came from set pieces and could have got a third in the injury time.”
 
Earlier, Vietnam scored the first in the 21st minute when Shahrul hit an own goal before Pham Duc Huy got the second for the Golden Dragons three minutes later.
 
While Darby admits that “it will be tough for Malaysia” in My Dinh, he was quick to point out that Malaysia “showed character” to comeback from two goals down, however, “looked exposed for pace at the back.”
 
The national team leaves for Hanoi on Thursday morning. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH
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