|Malaysia win football gold|
|10:36' 18/12/2009 (GMT+7)|
VietNamNet Bridge – Malaysia defeated Viet Nam 1-0 in Vientiane yesterday, December 17, to take their first gold in the under-23 Southeast Asian Games football competition since 1989.
Hop, who dreamed of celebrating his 23rd birthday yesterday with a great victory, lost the game with a light touch to the ball in an attempt to stop a shot from Malaysia's Talaha Norshahrul Idlan. He diverted the ball into his own net, as injured goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong couldn't react.
As the team was considered higher ranked than their rival, Viet Nam, who beat Malaysia 3-1 in the group stage, kicked off their game with high speed and played a better first half, but could not make their dominance count.
The Vietnamese side had several chances to open the score but they failed at every attempt.
Both teams struggled to find their fluency in a scrappy opening spell, although as the half wore on, Viet Nam started to enjoy more possession.
They went close on 25 minutes with a header well saved by Malaysia's Mohamad Shaibinee Allawee, but failed to create many clear openings in a stadium filled with thousands of Viet Nam supporters clad in red T-shirts.
With a good performance, the Malaysian goalie disappointed all attempts by Viet Nam's Phan Thanh Binh, Phan Thanh Hung and Mai Tien Thanh.
"They played a good first half, but we saw a totally different team in the second half. They went on the attack," said Ngo Manh Hai, from the Viet Nam Football Federation.
Hai also said that Vietnamese players didn't look in top form yesterday. "It seemed that their peak was at the match against Singapore on Sunday with a 4-1 victory. They didn't look rested enough for such an important event. They also didn't have a suitable plan against Malaysia."
In the second half, Malaysia was much more threatening, particularly on the counter-attack, to test keeper Truong, who suffered a shoulder injury 15 minutes after the break.
Saarani Ahmad Fakri missed a good chance with his head at the near post after a cross by Idlan. Four minutes later they had a shot cleared off the line.
Zaquan Adha burst through the middle just after coming on as a substitute in the 69th minute, but could not finish.
The goal for Malaysia was a heavy hammer to Viet Nam, who could not do anything to improve the situation, even though coach Henrique Calisto made several personnel changes.
Viet Nam's best chances were in the last minutes by Tien Thanh, who scored five goals this SEA Games, as he ran from behind to make a tap to the goalmouth. But it went wide. Later a ball was sent to the box but goalie Allawee wouldn't let it past.
Malaysia coach K. Rajagopal said it was lucky that his team lost in the group stage, because it motivated them to try harder.
"I think after the Thailand match my players showed what they have," he said. Malaysia put Thailand out in the group stage, ending their run of successes, which started in 1993.
He said his team had shown "a lot of determination, a lot of spirit and a fighting attitude. I think we are a good football team".
"I think we deserve to be the champions of the SEA Games in 2009. I think we played beyond our expectations," he added, saying that he had encouraged his team to exploit Viet Nam on the break.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News