BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
In the end it was the penalties that separated 2020 Asia Challenge hosts Selangor and True Bangkok United.
After regulation time in their Sunday match at the Shah Alam Stadium ended goalless, a penalty shootout was needed to decide the tournament winner.
Selangor goalkeeper Khairulazhan Khalid who came on late in the game initially saved Nattawut Suksum's penalty, but his opposing number Warut Makemusik would top his heroics. Makemusik would save Zahril Azri and Halim's spot kicks, to help the Thais win the first edition of the tournament.
But after the encounter, the Red Giants head coach B. Satiananthan only had praise for his men, who are currently still in the midst of their pre-season preparations.
"I'm very proud of the boys because Bangkok United have been together for a long time. They have played in the [AFC] Champions League, have good players and are experienced as a team. My boys matched them, created chances despite the pitch condition, kept their shape and played the way we want to play. They were confident in passing the ball around and kept the ball better than the previous game. They deserve credit for what they've done over the last two games.
"I am also seeing a lot of positivity among the players, which was missing last season. Everyone is raring to go, everyone wants to play, they want to play as a team and win something, and this is what I like to see. We're six weeks into pre-season and they are starting to understand each other better. But most importantly, I'm seeing that they're willing to sacrifice themselves for their teammates; always going in for tackles and chasing after the ball. They're showing a good attitude. As a coach this is great; because I can now start working on the weaknesses that they have," explained the former Malaysia head coach.
Most tellingly, he added that his team is only 50 per cent ready for the 2020 season, as he does not want them to peak physically too early.
"We're only at the halfway point because we haven't undergone speedwork and agility training yet. They will take place later as I don't want to rush things. If they peak now, they're going to 'die'."
Satiananthan also allayed concern over winger Wan Zack Haikal, who only played around 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the second half. The former Malaysia international, who had missed the entirety of the 2019 season due to an ACL injury, was taken off just shortly after coming on in the Bangkok United match, clutching his hamstring. The former Felda United boss said that Wan Zack's injury is unlikely to be a serious one, and his removal was simply a precautionary measure.
Follow Goal Malaysia's Instagram account!