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Aggressive approach paid off: Rajagobal

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal feels that an aggressive approach by his side was the key to their 3-0 win over Indonesia in the first leg of the final on Sunday which put them within touching distance of their first ever AFF Suzuki Cup title.

Two goals by Safee Sali and one by Ashari Samsuddin during a 12-minute spell in the second half at the Bukit Jalil Stadium gave the Tigers a formidable advantage to take into the return match in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The Malaysians had been hammered 5-1 by the Indonesians in their opening match of the tournament but Rajagobal told his side to show no fear of their opponents for the final.

"I told the boys to start off very aggressively because we wanted to get a result tonight against Indonesia," he said. "We knew we were playing at home and I told them to be more offensive. We started very well but the players were probably too eager in front of goal and their execution in the final third was a bit sloppy.

"Going into the second half I told the players that they had to show a more aggressive approach because if we wanted to do something, this was our best chance because we still have to go to Indonesia to play. So they got a spark, they scored three goals and they might even have got a penalty.

"I am very, very, very proud of these young boys because they have a tremendous job for our country. But nothing is finished and we still have to focus for another 90 minutes in Indonesia.

"I'm not saying that Indonesia are a bad team but what you saw today is the same thing as when we played Indonesia in their first match at home. Once you get a goal, your confidence grows and you start to press and we got another two goals."

Malaysia took full advantage of having the home crowd behind them as they inflicted Indonesia's first defeat of the tournament. The game was marred by a six-minute stoppage in the second half after laser pointers were used by some fans on Indonesia goalkeeper Markus Harison although Rajagobal felt that the match went off fairly well.

Said the Malaysia coach: "The crowd in Malaysia was not that rowdy tonight although I don't know where the lasers came from – it could have come from the Malaysian crowd or it could have come from the Indonesian crowd.

"Alfred Riedl came to me and I said we couldn't do anything but the referee took an action and stopped the game for five minutes and a message was put on the big screen telling the fans not to use the laser pointers.

"The whole thing went well and I hope that what the Malaysian security did, the Indonesian security will be able to do during the second leg in Jakarta. We have to abide by the rules and regulations and we hope we can have a wonderful game with fair play. Let the players play and win or lose, we will accept it.

"As a coach, I accepted that we lost to Indonesia in our first game 5-1 but I knew that my players could come back. It's the same thing now with Indonesia – the coach has accepted the result and the public of Indonesia must accept that this is football."

Rajagobal did not believe that the long stoppage may have affected the result as all three goals came shortly after the game restored

"There can be so many interruptions but you have to accept all of these things as a coach. The interruption could have worked in favour of Indonesia because we were pressing Indonesia when the game was stopped for five minutes. So I don't think that it was a factor in the result."

And while the Malaysia coach lauded striker Norshahrul Idlan for playing a major role in setting up his side's first two goals, he was also keen not to ignore the contributions of his other players.

Said Rajagobal: "Norshahrul is a special player. For me, I think that he is the best striker playing in this tournament although every coach has his opinion.

"He did his stuff and he did his job. I've got to thank him but I must pay credit to all the players because all of them gave their very best tonight."