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 By Nicolas Anil

Ong Kim Swee happy with Malaysia's defence ahead of AFF Suzuki Cup

Another resolute performance in defence left Malaysia's Datuk Ong Kim Swee a contented man following the 1-1 draw with Afghanistan in Tuesday night's international friendly, even though the coach felt his team could have nicked the contest.

Noarollah Amiri had given the visitors the lead midway through the first half before Hadin Azman headed home the equaliser in first-half stoppage time after coming on as a substitute for the injured Syazwan Zainon.

"Based on the second half performance, we could have won the game. But the boys did well, and I hope we can improve before our first AFF Cup game in November," Ong said after the game at Shah Alam Stadium.

"We played deep in the first 25 minutes, but overall our defending shape is much better. Khairul Fahmi only had to deal with crosses from the wings, and he had little threat from the middle apart from the goal they scored."

Ong had made eight changes from the side that drew 0-0 against Singapore last Friday, as he tested a new central defensive pairing in Shahrom Kalam and Fadhli Shas.

Shahrul Saad, primarily a centre-back, was used in a holding position against the Afghans and the ploy paid off. The visitors were reduced to marginally better possession, without creating many clear-cut chances.

Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee
Ong Kim Swee says he will now focus on improving Malaysia's attack after seeing defensive improvements.

"Shahrom and Fadhli did well, and we know of Shahrul's versatility in midfield as well. I am disappointed I couldn't give all the players a chance as we needed a result. But I hope to identify the 25-man squad by the end of October."

The former Harimau Muda boss also promised to beef up his forward line, which did not have a desired impact in both friendlies.

"Our training this time was more defensive-oriented, but I will sort out the changes upfront after this. We will have more attacking drills in our final phase training," he said.

Hadin, who scored in only his second international cap, was happy to have given the chance to prove his worth.

"I'm glad the coach believed in me and called me up. We did well, and it was a blessing for me to have scored an important goal for my country. I want to continue to perform in national colours if given the chance," said the Felda United midfielder.

Malaysia are due a friendly against Papua New Guinea on Nov 14, before Ong finalises his team for the AFF Cup in November.

Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.

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