| KUALA LUMPUR (15 Dec 2010) – Malaysia was quick to grab a 2-0 win in the first-leg semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 here tonight at the National Stadium although whether it will be enough for the return tie will only be known this Saturday.
Following a first-half deadlock, the Malaysians had veteran striker Mohd Safee Sali to thank for the win when he nailed two opportunistic goals in the 61st and 80th minute.
But as Malaysian chief coach K. Raajagobal said afterwards, it was a good win but there’s still another 90 minutes to play for in Hanoi.
“The job is not done yet as a two-goal advantage does not mean that we are already in the final,” said Rajagobal.
“Football is funny as in the group stage, Indonesia and Thailand were the favourites but we made the semi-finals. So after tonight, I will just have to leave it to the boys.
“They must be hungry enough to win and they must be motivated for the next match. They are so close so it is up to them on just how badly they want to win.”
With the away-goal rule being used for the semi-finals and final matches, Vietnam were all eager to press the Malaysian defence early in the hope that one mistake would be enough for them to take the advantage back to Hanoi.
But it was Malaysia who had the real first look at goal where in the eighth minute S. Kunanlan played the ball short to Safiq Rahim whose flicked went straight to Bui Tan Truong.
For Vietnam it was obvious that the several injuries alongside the suspension on Trong Hoang have taken the sting somewhat from their frontline as they were left to rely heavily on captain Nguyen Minh Phuong and winger Phan Thanh Hung.
In the 15th minute, Minh Phuong tested the 100PLUS-FAM National Football Awards 2010 Best Young Player of the Year Khairul Fahmi Che Mat with a grounder which the latter parried for a futile corner.
The midfield battle soon took over after that as Minh Phuong and Safiq battled to win possessions only to lose them moments later.
In the 39th minute, Pham Thanh Luong cut in from the right after beating defender Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar only to see his pass to Thanh Hung getting a weak shot at the Malaysian goal.
Four minutes later, a shot from 20metres out from Thanh Luong did little to trouble Fahmi while Malaysia finished the first half with Norsharul Idlan Talaha’s header which narrowly missed the crossbar.
The Malaysians came out more determined after the break and while it would seem that Vietnam were inching closer to breaking the deadlock, it was Malaysia who finally went in front when in the 61st minute, a freekick from substitute Sabre Mat Abu was glanced into goal by Safee – sending the more than 35,000 fans into rapturous delight.
Vietnam threw everything they have but the Malaysians stood firm and ten minutes to the end, Safee nailed his second goal of the night when he slammed home the rebound from an earlier attempt off Safiq.
“I don’t want to be seen as if I’m complaining each time we lose. Some of the players made mistakes and Malaysia took advantage, this is natural in football. We make mistakes here and Malaysia win, so we hope that Malaysia will make mistakes in Hanoi and we can win,” added Vietnam chief coach Henrique Calisto.
“It was a fair game as we failed to control the ball in midfield although I think that 2-1 or 1-0 would have been a fairer result.
“I think that we can overcome the deficit in Hanoi but it will be difficult.”
MALAYSIA: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar, Safiq Rahim, Norsharul Idlan Talaha (Mohd Amri Yahyah 67th), Mohd Safee Sali, Amar Rohidan, S. Kunanlan (Mohd Khyril Muhymeen Zambri 83rd), Mahallli Jasuli (Mohd Sabre Mat Abu 55th), Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal, Mohd Muslim Ahmad, Mohd Fadhli Mohd Shas.
VIETNAM: Bui Van Truong, Nguyen Huy Hoang, Le Phuoc Tu, Tran Dinh Dog, Vu Nhu Thanh, Nguyen Minh Phuong, Le Tan Tai (Nguyen Viet Thang 68th), Nguyen Vu Phong, Phan Thanh Hung (Nguyen Minh Chau 46th), Pham Thanh Luong (Nguyen Quang Hai 81st), Nguyen Anh Duc.
AFF SUZUKI CUP 2010, SEMI-FINALS FIXTURES and RESULTS
First-leg – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (BUKIT JALIL NATIONAL STADIUM, KUALA LUMPUR)
15 Dec MALAYSIA 2 VIETNAM 0
First-leg – Jakarta, Indonesia (GELORA BUNG KARNO STADIUM, JAKARTA)
16 Dec Philippines vs Indonesia
Second-leg – Hanoi, Vietnam (MY DINH NATIONAL STADIUM, HANOI)
18 Dec Vietnam vs Malaysia (2000hrs)
Second-leg – Jakarta, Indonesia (GELORA BUNG KARNO STADIUM, JAKARTA)
19 Dec Indonesia vs Philippines