Malaysia 1 Vietnam 2: Lacklustre Tigers punished
Safiq Rahim’s early penalty was cancelled out by Vo Huy Toan’s strike, before Nguyen Van Quyet scored the winner in the second half.
The 1-2 defeat meant the Malaysians will likely have to claim a two-goal victory in Hanoi on Thursday in order to reach the final.
Vietnam nearly had a dream start inside six minutes after Le Cong Vinh set up Ngo Hoang Thinh, but the latter curled just wide of Khairul Fahmi Che Mat’s right-hand post.
Instead it was the Malaysians who got off the mark eight minutes later.
Mahali Jasuli’s volley was adjudged to have been handled by Vietnam defender Nguyen Huy Hung, with Chinese referee Ma Ning having no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Safiq, who was named captain in the absence of Shukor Adan, stepped up and coolly sent Vietnam keeper Tran Nguyen Manh the wrong way from 12 yards out.
Dollah Salleh’s side could have doubled their advantage just minutes later but Safee Sali failed to capitalize from Azamuddin Akil’s cross.
Credit to Vietnam as they gradually settled into the game and managed to level matters just after the half-hour mark.
Hotshot Cong Vinh raced onto Pham Thanh Luong’s through ball inside the box before firing in a fierce shot which Khairul Fahmi could only parry.
The rebound fell to an onrushing Huy Toan who slammed home emphatically despite the custodian’s best efforts to recover.
That scoreline remained till half time and it was the Malaysians who got into the thick of things after the break.
Safee Sali scuffed a shot wide from outside the box after being set up by Zubir Azmi, before Safiq’s freekick was punched out by Nguyen Manh.
Both coaches took the opportunities to switch things around soon after – with Dollah bringing on Gary Steven Robbat for Hafiz Kamal, while Toshiya Miura opted for Mac Hong Quan to replace the jaded Thanh Luong.
It was the latter substitution which worked a treat with Hong Quan making immediate impact.
The 22-year-old released Nguyen Van Quyet, who checked inside Zubir on his way into the box before firing inside Khairul Fahmi’s right-hand post – silencing the majority of the 80,000 fans inside Shah Alam.
Hong Quan continued to torment the Malaysians’ defence thereafter as he set up Cong Vinh inside the box, but the latter was superbly denied by Muslim Ahmad’s last-ditch challenge.
He had another opportunity closed down by Khairul Fahmi, before Huy Toan narrowly missed contact from Van Quyet’s right-wing cross.
Desperate to salvage a draw from this game, Dollah threw on Manaf Mamat and Indra Putra Mahayuddin in the last 20 minutes but to no avail.
On 82 minutes, Indra squared the ball across for Manaf, who was unable to get his head in front of Vietnam centre-back Dinh Tien Than.
Harimau Malaya then forced a couple of corners inside injury time, but failed to make those chances count.
Indra had one last opportunity when he got on to the end of Manaf’s outswinging corner, but the Felda United forward could only glance his header wide.
(Photo: Kamarul Akhir / www.asiana.my)