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‘Not so pretty’ but Kim Swee still satisfied with win

IT may not be pretty, but national Under-23 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is still happy with his side’s 3-1 win over Laos in their final Group A match at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Malaysia got their goals through a brace from striker Jafri Firdaus Chew (26th and 92nd minutes) and one from skipper Mohd Adib Zainudin (39th).
Laos replied through Phanthavong Thanin in the 31st minute.
With yesterday’s win, Malaysia topped the group with 12 points, followed by Myanmar (nine). The two teams will only know who their semi-final opponents are when the Group B matches end today.
Kim Swee only retained striker N. Thanabalan and centrebacks Adib and Irfan Zakaria as he rang in the changes by fielding his second stringers.
The coach said he was happy with the commitment shown by his players despite the “not so pretty” performance.
“We have already qualified for the semi-finals, so there is no reason for us to ‘kill’ ourselves,” said Kim Swee. “I made eight changes, so definitely our game is different. I’m happy with the players’ performance.”
Kim Swee’s near-wholesale change resulted in the team looking disjointed.
Although they had the lion’s share of possession, they struggled to breach the tight Laotian defence until Jafri gave Malaysia the lead when he pounced on a rebound off the crossbar to tuck the ball in from close range in the 26th minute.
Malaysia’s lead lasted only five minutes as Phanthavong fired in a free-kick from edge of the box to make it 1-1.
Skipper Adib then saved the blushes for Malaysia when his long-range shot took a deflection off a Laos player to end up in the net six minutes before half time.
The Malaysians continued their lacklustre display and lived dangerously before Jafri sealed victory with a late goal in the 92nd.
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