Despite losing 2-1 in the second leg final of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, the national team created history by defeating Indonesia on a 4-2 aggregate to become the new football champions of ASEAN.
To commemorate the historic win, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has declared Friday, December 31 2010, a public holiday. The public holiday announcement was made via national news agency Bernama
Indonesia won the second leg of the final 2-1 on Wednesday night while Malaysia had won the first leg 3-0 in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
The scorers for Indonesia were Mohammad Ridwan (87th minute) and Mohammad Nasuha (71st). Safee Sali scored in the 53rd minute to put Malaysia 1-0 in the lead.
For Malaysia, this success is very significant as the last time the senior national team became champions in a regional competition was at the 1989 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. The Under 23 team won the gold medal at the last SEA Games in Laos
It was also the first time Malaysia wins the Asean Football Federation championship since its inception in 1996.
To make it a grand night for Malaysia, Safee won the Golden Boot award with five goals to his name. The striker was on target twice in the first leg.
Malaysia started with the same line-up that was fielded in the first leg, except for midfielder Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal and right-back Mahali Jasuli, who were suspended. They were replaced by Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin and Mohd Sabree Abu respectively.
The Indonesians were without their inspirational flanker Okto Maniani, who was also out on suspension while striker Yongky Ari Bowo was out with an injury. Their replacements were Arif Suyono and Irfan Bachdim respectively.
As expected, Indonesia came charging from the starting whistle but the Malaysian defence led by Mohd Muslim Ahmad and Mohd Fadhli Shas did well to keep a tight leash on Indonesian dangermen Christian Gonzales and Irfan Bachdim.
But a lapse of concentration inside the box resulted in Indonesia winning a penalty in the 15th minute, when Mohd Sabree handled the ball.
However, much to the disappointment of the Indonesian fans, skipper Firman Utina’s tame kick was saved by Malaysian goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
Indonesians, who were desperate for an early goal, kept on pressing for the opening goal but Khairul Fahmi proved to be a stumbling block, denying at least five attempts at goal before the half-time break.
Malaysia took the lead against the run of play in the 53rd minute, when Ashaari sent a long through ball for Safee to chase, and the Selangor hitman scored a clinical goal.
Despite being a goal down, Indonesia never gave up and their persistence paid off as defender Mohammad Nasuha pounced on a loose ball from goalkeeper Khairul’s save to hit the roof of the net in the 71st minute.
Then with the clock ticking away, Muhammad Ridwan scored from a goal-mouth melee in the 87th minute but this was not enough to deny Malaysia the AFF-Suzuki Cup.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin congratulated the Malaysian football squad 'Harimau Malaya' for creating history by winning the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 after defeating Indonesia on a 4-2 aggregate.
He said the success was even sweeter for the national football squad after waiting for 14 years to emerge as the fourth Asean nation to win the trophy after Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
"The victory proves that nothing is impossible if we truly want to win. All the efforts, hard work and sacrifices made by the players, coaches, and team officials have clearly paid off with the success.
"Certainly every Malaysian is proud, touched and most of all, thankful because the success reflects the determination of the people concerned especially the players and coach, K. Rajagopal to become the champion," he said in a media statement, in Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday night.
Muhyiddin hoped the win would not make the players, coaches and team officials complacent because the challenges subsequently would be even more intense in future.
He also thanked and congratulated the supporters who had given their undivided support and encouragement to the national football squad.
"My appreciation is also directed at the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah who had succeeded in leading the Malaysian football to become the champion," he said.