Malaysia players back winless Nelo Vingada for Asian Cup qualification

Nelo Vingada is the right man to lead Malaysia to the 2019 Asian Cup, according to his players who describe the Portuguese coach as someone "comfortable to work with", despite a poor start of three defeats in four games.

Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Hong Kong in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers was Vingada's first point of their campaign in Group B, despite playing their opening two matches at home.

Malaysia suffered a 2-1 loss to an under-strength Lebanon side in their first qualifier on June 13.

And the point against Hong Kong was fortunate because visiting forward Alessandro Ferreira Leonardo had his penalty saved after the 90th minute. Even so, Malaysia national players believe it is only a matter of time before the man they call the Professor starts working his magic.

"I really think he is the right man for the job. Everything leading up to this game has been perfect under him, he's got a lot of experience and he's been very encouraging," Malaysia forward Darren Lok told ESPN FC.

"We needed a win against Hong Kong, but we have to build on this draw. Hopefully, we can go to North Korea and build on that. The more we stay together as a team, the more we'll improve and the win should be around the corner."

But the reality is that their Asian Cup campaign could be effectively over by the middle of next month, with the poor-travelling Malaysians now bracing themselves for two matches on the road against higher-ranked opponents.

They next face a daunting trip to face North Korea on Oct. 5 in a rescheduled match in Pyongyang before travelling to Hong Kong four days later.

At home to Hong Kong, Harimau Malaysia fell behind to Leonardo's 53rd minute finish before Syazwan Zainon equalised three minutes later.

Had they been able to record a first win under Vingada, Malaysia would have moved to second in the table.

Defender Aidil Zafuan, who was sent off in the dying minutes of the match, echoed his Johor Darul Ta'zim teammate to stand behind Vingada.

"We cannot judge him just yet. We have yet to get a win under him, but our game play has changed. We are comfortable with him, and he understands us," Aidil told ESPN FC.

"Every coach needs to be given time, football is not magic. Even if we have a world class coach, we need to see our standard as well."

Vingada started work in May after being appointed by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president TMJ for his track record in Asia.

The 64-year-old led Saudi Arabia to the 1996 Asian Cup title, and achieved a double title triumph with FC Seoul in 2010.

However, he has found success hard to come by since leaving South Korea, with a winning percentage of only 24 percent in the last seven years. He has recorded just 13 wins in his last 54 matches, including four in charge of Malaysia.

If Malaysia fail to win their two upcoming away games, it could come down to a battle between North Korea and Hong Kong for the second qualifying spot, behind leaders, Lebanon.

In 2015, FAM said failure to make it to the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates would be a "disaster", given that the regional tournament has expanded from 16 to 24 nations, increasing Malaysia's qualification chances.