Ong wants one last hurrah

Ong wants one last hurrah

He was warmly greeted with a round of applause by both the Malaysian and Indonesian media in the press conference after Indonesia emerged 4-3 victors in Thursday's penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Even though Thamil Arasu and Shahrul Saad's spot-kicks were saved, Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee refused to blame his players and admirably took "full responsibility" for the cruel defeat.

"It was like a funeral in the dressing room. I take full responsibility. No player should be blamed for this defeat. It has nothing to do with the players, so please don't fault them," said the disappointed 43-year-old.

He added that his team felt the effects of playing five matches in 10 days.

And 120 minutes of hard running against the Indonesians, as well as the heartbreaking shootout defeat, could take a toll on their minds and bodies in today's bronze-medal match against Singapore.

Already in the build-up to this tournament, the Malaysians were stripped of seven key players - defenders Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim and Fandi Othman, midfielders Junior Eldstal and Gary Robbat, and attackers Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor and Syahrul Azwari - through injury.


This inevitably disrupted their plans to make it a hat-trick of SEA Games football golds, and Ong said: "No team in the world have played in a tournament without seven regulars but those who came here showed good character.

"We did not lose a match in normal time in this tournament. We beat Indonesia on penalties two years ago for the gold but today we lost to them in a similar situation."

Indeed, Harimau Muda are still unbeaten in their last 15 SEA Games matches in normal time, and have scored in 29 of their last 30 games at the bienniel meet.

Likely to field his best possible side instead of giving the reserves a chance, Ong called for one last hurrah in this evening's clash of the wounded cats against fellow semi-final losers, Young Lions, who were also done in from the spot as Thailand scored their winner through a 24th-minute penalty.

"All the disappointment, criticism and negative comments should be put to bed in the bronze medal play-off against Singapore, to honour the country," Ong wrote on his official Twitter account.

"No players are to blame... they gave their best but it was not enough to realise the dreams of the fans back home."

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