Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh has challenged his side to make the most of home advantage in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final against Vietnam on Sunday.
Harimau Malaya, who booked their place in the last four of Southeast Asia’s premier international tournament after finishing second in Group B, face a tricky test to the final after being pitted against a young and talented Vietnam side.
To make matters slightly more complicated, the Vietnamese will get to play the second leg at home, which will take place at the My Dinh National Stadium next Thursday.
However, with a full house expected at the Shah Alam Stadium in Sunday’s first leg, Dollah wants his side to make the most of what is likely to be a powerful atmosphere to claim a significant advantage.
“We’re playing at home and we’ll be aiming for two goals to take into the second leg in Hanoi,” he said on the tournament’s official website.
“I don’t think that Vietnam will play too defensively but even if they play with nine men behind the ball, we must find a way to break through their defence.”
The Malaysians did meet Vietnam last month in a pre-tournament friendly, where they fell to a 3-1 defeat and finished the game with ten men despite having led at halftime.
Nonetheless, the former Malaysia international claims it will be a different side that took on Vietnam on Sunday evening.
“I’m not worried by the fact that our team lost to Vietnam in a recent warm-up match,” Dollah added.
“That was in the early stage of our preparations when we were still not certain of our best XI.”
Although Vietnam enter the tie as slight favourites, coach Toshiya Miura has warned his players that they cannot afford to get complacent against an opposition side which incredible resilience to beat arch-rivals Singapore 3-1 on the final round of Group B matches to book their place in the semis.
“Malaysia are getting better game by game,” the Japanese said.
“Our team cannot afford to just fight for a draw but the important thing is that our players must maintain their focus throughout the match.
“I also expect the Malaysia fans to put pressure on my team.”