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Away goal was crucial: Rajagobal

Jakarta: Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal admitted that he only felt fully confident of victory in the AFF Suzuki Cup after Safee Sali netted what proved to be a decisive away goal against Indonesia in the second leg of the final on Wednesday.

The Malaysians held a 3-0 lead from the first leg but had to withstand long periods of pressure from the home side, including a missed penalty by Firman Utina, before Safee scored on the counter-attack in the 54th minute after a fine through ball by Ashari Samsuddin.

That gave the Tigers a four-goal advantage and also meant that the hosts had to score five goals in the final 36 minutes to win the final.

And although Mohammad Nasuha and Muhammad Ridwan did find the net for the Indonesians in the closing minutes, it was not enough to prevent Malaysia from claiming their first AFF Suzuki Cup title.

"I know that Indonesia would come out aggressively at the start so we had to try to remain focussed and continue to play as a team and as a unit," Rajagobal explained.

"I felt that they longer that we could prevent them from scoring, the easier it would get for us as the game went on.

"We were a bit fortunate with the penalty save but at the end of the first half I felt that we were in a good position and so we continued to play the way we had been playing while trying to get a goal on the counter attack.

"Then we got a beautiful goal by Safee off a wonderful pass by Ashari and that made things harder for them and a little bit easier for us to win the AFF Suzuki Cup."

Rajagobal felt that the missed penalty by Firman in the 19th minute might not have made too much of a difference to how his side played the game.

"Even if the penalty had gone in, I would not have done things very differently. I would have told the players to be more alert and to continue to try to get a goal

"Maybe we might have attacked more or tried something a bit different. But when we did score in the second half, I became very confident because I felt that it would be very difficult for Indonesia to score four or five goals after that."