Malaysia ended a 20-year gold drought when they edged Vietnam 1-0 in the football final at the 25th SEA Games held at the Main Stadium, National Sports Complex, here on Thursday.Malaysia's winning goal came from an own goal by Vietnam's defender, Mai Xuan Hop in the 83rd minute.
A cross by Safiq Rahim to substitute Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abd Razak in front of the Vietnam goalposts was deflected by Mai but the ball went straight into his own goal.The last time Malaysia won the gold in football was in Kuala Lumpur (1989) under the guidance of British coach, Trevor Hartley.
Playing in front of almost 17,000 Vietnamese supporters who were wearing the red t-shirt with a yellow star on the chest, Malaysia and Vietnam started cautiously with each side testing the opponents' defence.The cautious game adopted by both sides saw the ball moving in the centre of the pitch with the Vietnamese players, who are noted for their speed, occasionally testing the Malaysian goalie, Mohd Sharbinee Allawee with long shots.Malaysia's best chance at scoring came in the 29th minute, but S. Kunalan's header went over the crossbar.
Tied to a goalless draw at half-time, both teams increased the pressure on their opponents' defence to look for the elusive goal.Malaysia seemed to dominate the second half when they succeeded in warding off the opponents' attacks.The Malaysian defence led by Sabre Mat Abu deserved praise for blocking the opponents' raids and when the Malaysian strikers failed to break the deadlock, K. Rajagobal brought in Mohamad Zaquan Adha to replace Ahmad Fakri Saarani in the 69th minute.
Mohamad Zaquan Adha clearly gave a new inspiration to the Malaysian side but the attempts at goal had still not been able beat the Vietnamese goalkeeper.However, the own goal by Mai finally slowed down the opponents' pace before referee Pratap Singh blew the final whistle.Malaysia booked their berth for the final after beating host, Laos 3-1 while Vietnam trounced Singapore 4-1 in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
Since winning the goal in 1989 (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia only managed to lift the silver at the 2001 edition (Kuala Lumpur) when the competition format for the biennial games was changed to Under-23 teams and later won the bronze in the 2003 edition (Vietnam) and 2005 (Philippines).In the 2007 SEA Games, Malaysia were shown the exit early in the group stage.
MALAYSIA: Mohd Sharbinee Allawee, Mohd Sabree Mat Abu, Mohd Nasriq Baharom, Mohamad Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Baddrol Bakhtiar, K.Gurusamy, S.Kunalan, Safiq Rahim, Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abd Radzak), Mohamad Muslim Mohamad (Mohamad Azmi Muslim), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Amar Rohidan).
VIETNAM: Bui Tan Truong, Nguyen Quy Suu, Vo Hoang Quang, Mai Tien Thanh, Mai Xuan Hop, Tran Dinh Dong, Phan Thanh Binh, Pham Thanh Luong, Nguyen Thanh Long Giang, Phan Thanh Hung (Tran Manh Dung), Nguyen Ngoc Anh (Nguyen Trong Hoang).REFEREE: Pratap Singh (India).-- BERNAMA