Wenger heaps praises on local lads
KUALA LUMPUR (June 25, 2012): Maybe Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger was just being courteous when he “asked about the Malaysian players”. However, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the “Professor” was interested in roping in some Tigers, as the team produced a gallant performance against the English Premier League powerhouse at the National Stadium Bukit Jalil last night.
K. Rajagobal’s men almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat but let slip an historic victory by conceding two goals in the dying minutes of the match. Earlier just before the breather, Malaysia’s Azmi Muslim sent the 55,000-strong crowd into raptures when he broke the deadlock with a 30-yard scorcher which gave Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone no chance.
After a resilient and disciplined display throughout the greater part of the match, the Malaysians – most of whom are observing the fasting month of Ramadan – became subdued over the last five minutes and eventually succumbed to Thomas Eisfeld’s equaliser (87th) and Chucks Aneke’s winner (90th).
Wenger, who yesterday played the Malaysian national team for a third time since being in charge of Arsenal, said the locals lads had progressed and that “every time he has seen them play, they become stronger, fitter and faster”. He also earmarked a few Malaysian players who caught his eye.
“I think that your number seven (Aidil Zafuan Razak) and eight (Safiq Rahim) did well. I saw many good players today. So, my friend here (gesturing towards Rajagobal) must be doing a good job because his team improve whenever we have played them,” the Frenchman said during a post-match press conference, before joking: “Maybe I’ll sign some Malaysian players based on their performance today. Their defence was good and their keeper (Farizal Marlias) was fantastic.”
Rajagobal was also encouraged by the strong showing from his boys, which augurs well for their upcoming match against Manchester City at the same stadium on July 30.
“I promised Mr Arsene that I would give him a tough fight this time, and I’m glad that we delivered. The boys did really well and played their hearts out despite the fasting season.”
Rajagobal also extended a special mention for midfielder Gary Steven Robbat, who won many plaudits and admirers for his rocksolid display against the Gunners.
“Gary was actually brought in as a replacement for K. Gurusamy. But he went on, followed instructions and was one of those who managed to really make an impression out there.”
After the game, the Arsenal team immediately boarded their bus and headed to KL International Airport, where they departed for China. As part of their Far East Tour – exclusively organised by ProEvents – the Gunners will play Manchester City in Beijing on July 27.
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