KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 – After escaping a setback with a 2-1 narrow win against underdogs Malaysia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) head coach, Bert van Marwijk started his post-match press conference last night full of praise for the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
The Dutchman, who coached the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, said after the Group G match of the second round 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup Joint Qualifiers that the 87,000 capacity stadium was one of the most beautiful he had been to.
However, the praises did not last long, as soon after that, the 67-year-old started to lament about the pitch condition, which he pointed out did not seem to match what he called an excellent stadium.
“Firstly, I want to congratulate you on the beautiful stadium, one of the most beautiful stadiums ever that I have seen in the world. Only it's pity that you have this pitch, you cannot play really fast football, also for Malaysia. That’s a pity, but this is a beautiful stadium,” he said.
The criticism of the pitch is not new as even Tan Cheng Hoe and several national players have complained about the pitch condition ahead of the first round playoff against Timor Leste in June.
A month after that, Malaysia Stadium Corporation (MSC) chairman, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes promised to improve the pitch conditions and turn it into the ‘best in Asia’ in a year's time.
Meanwhile, speaking on the match, Marwijk said after having a bad start, his boys, ranked 65th in the world, managed to beef up the performance and bounce back against 159th ranked Malaysia after figuring out the tactical glitch on the left side defence.
“Beginning of the second half, we had our best part of the game, I saw that Malaysia were tired from the last game and the trip (against Indonesia), so that was the moment we have to score the goals, because we could get few very good chances in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
“But the moment the coach (Tan Cheng Hoe) started changing his players, they got more spirited, and I did not expect them to come back pressing the game in the last 15 minutes, but we worked very hard and at the end we are very happy to win here.
“Because I think there will not be many countries winning here. We have seven young players in the squad, was not easy for them but they learned a lot from this match,” he said.
Malaysia started with fire through Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad's header 30 seconds into the game and completely dominated the match for 30 minutes, before UAE clawed their way back to secure the win through Ali Ahmed Mabkhout's brace in the 43rd and 74th minutes.