I have fighters in my Tigers squad, says Ong

Following a scoreless night in Singapore, Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee was proud his players fought hard and expressed hope there would be no further distractions to deal with.

Malaysia were second best for the most part of their match against Singapore, but Tigers coach Ong Kim Swee saw enough to stay optimistic.

The Tigers held the Singaporeans 0-0, surviving three attempts that struck the crossbar, to deny the Lions a deserving win.

But despite the visitors not turning up in attack, Ong insisted his charges, who have had to deal with various off field distractions – including a club versus country tussle – showed their determination to avoid conceding. The Malaysians were disastrous at the back against Indonesia last month.

"I fielded a brand new back-four today and we didn't concede. It's good result looking at that," said Ong.

"The match was close and neither teams wanted to lose it, considering it was a Malaysia-Singapore clash. We did well defending as a unit. Singapore had their best XI on the pitch too.

"Of course, I'd love to play beautiful football but football is such that results are most important. If we play beautiful football but don't win then it's a disaster too."

Ong admitted Malaysia needed to polish a lot of things ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup. He appeared settled on his squad for the tournament but insisted the current dynamics of Malaysian football meant he had to think of an alternative plan on standby.

Malaysia lost the services of experienced quartet Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirulhadi Zainal after they opted to retire from international football in July.

To top things off, Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim are refusing to allow their players additional preparation time with the national team.

"I hope these are the players that are available but there are so many things happening back home. I'm not sure if i'll have the same players available," continued Ong.

"I'm certain we'd be playing better if I had the same squad that played Timor Leste in the Asian Cup qualifying playoff a few months back. That's the reality."

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo