OKS: We can replace Safiq

Malaysia coach Ong believed his charges are ready to put behind disappointing results even without key man Safiq Rahim... 

With skipper Safiq Rahim out injured, Malaysia’s engine room have lost precision and a source of goals.

The Tigers have not scored in three matches – against lowly Macau and AFF Suzuki Cup rivals Myanmar – and the alarm bells are being sounded.

Both matches were played without Safiq, who has been in excellent form for Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in domestic competitions and the AFC Cup.

The 28-year-old is still out injured and will miss Malaysia’s Asian Cup qualifying playoff against Timor Leste in Johor Bahru.

But Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee expressed his confidence in the players he called up, as he backed them to beat Timor Leste convincingly.

“The inability to score goals was just a hiccup in the last two matches. We have worked on some routines and now we need to put that on the field,” said Ong.

“We can score goals … but I won’t be pressuring my players for an early goal. We need to stick to our play and build the attacks. If all this goes to plan, the goals will come.”

Timor Leste’s Junior Aparecido had suggested that Safiq’s absence would weaken the hosts but Ong believes he can adequately replace the injured captain.

Amirul Hisyam and Brendan Gan are two options for Ong, while Baddrol Bakhtiar, Amirul Hadi Zainal and Junior Eldstal were all tested in the friendly game against Myanmar.

Baddrol and Amirul Hadi – the two most experienced central midfielders in the squad – are expected to start again.

Baddrol is one of the options to fill in for Safiq

Both legs of the playoff will take place at Larkin Stadium due to Timor Leste’s lack of adequate facilities to host a game.

The first leg will be a home tie for Malaysia and Ong insisted his side cannot underestimate their oppositions despite being at home.

“They are equal to us… especially with the inclusion of the naturalised players. The Timor Leste national team is not the one from 10 years ago, where you record big scores,” Ong asserted.

“We won’t take an all-defensive approach despite needing to avoid conceding in the first-leg.”