KUALA LUMPUR: — Malaysia set up a mouth watering AFF Suzuki Cup final against Thailand by edging Vietnam 5-4 when the second leg semifinal ended at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thursday.
Malaysia who had lost 1-2 in the first leg at the Shah Alam Stadium last Sunday put up a dazzling display of attacking football to beat Vietnam 4-2 at their own backyard to set up a repeat of the 1996 final.
Thailand had already qualified with a 3-0 aggregate over the Philippines yesterday after managing a 3-0 win at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
The first leg semifinal between Thailand and the Philippines Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, had ended in a 0-0 draw last Saturday.
In today’s six-goal thriller between Malaysia and Vietnam, referee Toma Masaaki from Japan awarded three penalty kicks, two for Vietnam and one for Malaysia.
Malaysia, needing to clear goals to advance, went straight into attack immediately after Masaaki had blown the whistle to start the match and the early pressure immediately paid dividends striker Indra Putra Mahayuddin earned a penalty in the 3rd minute.
Safiq Rahim stepped up to send the Vietnam goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh the wrong way before Norshahrul Idlan Talaha added the second in the 15th minute.
Stunned by the two early goals, Vietnam who were on the defensive mode right from the start, doubled their efforts in attack and by the 22nd minute managed to reduce the deficit when skipper Le Cong Vinh earned a penalty and scored.
However, Malaysia restored the two-goal cushion when Dinh Tien Thanh’s clearance from a Indra Putra cross, sailed into his own net.
Twenty minutes later, Malaysian skipper Muhammad Shukor Adan stunned the home crowd by heading in Malaysia’s fourth goal of the night in the 42nd minute by latching on to a close-range header by Mohamad Fadhli Mohd Shas.
Vietnam came out of the break with more determination but stout defending by the Malaysians restricted the home team’s chances and attempts on goal.
Against the run of play, Vietnam managed to reduce the deficit through Cong Vinh’s 78th minute attempt, largely due to a lapse in concentration by the defenders.
Though leading 4-2, Malaysia had to endure some anxious moments before Masaaki blew the final whistle to end the match and the agony of coach Dollah Salleh.
Malaysia, winner of the title in 2010 by beating Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate in the final that was held on a home and away format, will be hoping to achieve a similar feat against Thailand.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah congratulated the Malaysian team for making it to the final.
“Thank you Dollah Salleh and the players for fulfilling the wish of the home fans,” he said in a statement to the media. — BERNAMA