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Tan hails positive show after Malaysia’s stoppage-time defeat to Lebanon

Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe rued a late Hilal El-Helwe winner as Lebanon prevailed 2-1 in the final Asian Cup group qualifier in Beirut, but there were plenty of positives for the Harimau Malaya boss to take.

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Tan faced criticism ahead of the trip to Beirut following Malaysia's 2-2 draw with Mongolia and the drastic squad changes made the following day, but a refreshing display by what was branded a second-string Malaysia side on Tuesday gave the new Malaysia coach hope.

Hilal's injury-time winner came after Syafiq Ahmad had cancelled out Hassan Matouk's first half penalty after heading in a corner from Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) clubmate Nazmi Faiz Mansor in the 72nd minute.

The players gave their best. I hope that this match was another lesson for our players to learn to be focused for 90 minutes

Malaysia also went close to equalising twice in the first half but Akhyar Rashid's strike went just over while Matthew Davies' cheeky cross towards goal hit the crossbar.

The Tigers pressed Lebanon and produced some good moves during the match, drawing positive reviews from the fans.

Expectations were low following the release of 14 JDT players, including some of the best talent the country has to offer.

Two of those players, Nazmi and Syafiq, returned to the national team and they brought Malaysia's sole goal.

"This is the first time the team's been playing together after training for a few days. They were playing a fantastic game and I have to give them credit for it," said Tan.

"We know Lebanon are a much better team but the players gave their best. I hope that this match was another lesson for our players to learn to be focused for 90 minutes."

Malaysia return home on Wednesday and will train for another three days before facing lowly Bhutan at Bukit Jalil Stadium on April 1.

"We need to keep consistent from here. These players are still young and need more exposure and experience in the future.

"This is the new generation of players," said Tan.

Photos: FAM