Friday, December 18, 2009

Malaysian Football team finally end 20-year SEA Games gold drought

MALAYSIA finally ended their 20-year gold drought in the SEA Games men’s football competition when they defeated Viet-nam 1-0 in the final at the Main Stadium of the National Sports Complex in Vientiane yesterday.
The national Under-23 boys, who came as non-medal prospects under Category B, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the Games to win the gold medal – Malaysia’s 40th in the Laos SEA Games.

An own goal by Vietnam’s Mai Xuan Hop in the 85th minute was enough to seal victory for the gritty Malaysian side, who came alive in the second-half.

Golden harvest: National coach K. Rajagopal in jubilant mood after all the players put their gold medals around his neck after their historic win yesterday.

National coach K. Rajagopal was full of praise for his warriors, who created history.
“We achieved an historic feat in Vientiane,” said a jubilant Rajagopal, as the players garlanded all 20 gold medals onto him after the medal presentation ceremony.

“We started the competition by recording the biggest win of the football competition (since 1959) – thrashing Timor Leste 11-0. Then, we packed off defending champions Thailand (out of the semi-finals for the first time in 36 years).

“Today, we have won the gold medal away from home for the first time after 30 years (1979) and ... crowned champions after 20 years.

Down and out: A Vietnamese player weeps in the foreground after the final whistle yesterday. — AP
“Now isn’t that an historic feat? ... that’s why they call me ‘King Raja’.
“We deserved to win even though we won by an own goal. We should have won by two or three goals.”
Rajagopal certainly deserves his place in the sun as he has achieved a feat which eight other coaches had failed in the last nine SEA Games (1991-2007).

Last night, the golden moment came when Norsharul Idlan Talaha’s grounder into the box was deflected into goal by Vietnam’s Xuan Hop past his own keeper Bui Tan Truong in the 85th minute.
The game got off to a scrappy start, with both teams adopting a cautious approach.
Joy and despair: Malaysian players celebrate as Vietnam’s Mai Xuan Hop, who scored an own goal, walks past dejectedly after the final yesterday. Malaysia won 1-0.

Close marking and stray passes by both teams saw the first-half ending goalless.
Vietnam’s ace striker Mai Tien Thanh had the best chance of the half but his glancing header was saved by Malaysian goalkeeper Mohd Sharbinee Allawee in the 26th minute.

The Malaysian strike force, led by Norsharul and Ahmad Fakri Saarani, barely got their game going.

Vietnam goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong had only one save to make when S. Kunalan shot tamely at goal in the 30th minute.

The second-half saw a different Malaysia in action as they forced Vietnam to back-pedal.
The more adventurous approach saw Malaysia missing at least three sitters.

First, midfielder K. Gurusamy saw his lob in the 58th minute miss the target.

Then, in the 62nd minute, Norsharul had the best chance when he rounded keeper Tan Truong to shoot at goal. His effort, however, was saved on the line by Nguyen Thanh Long.
Two minutes later Fakri’s diving header from close range was off target.
But, all that did not matter as Malaysia finally struck gold in the 85th minute.

It was sweet revenge indeed for Malaysia, who lost 1-3 to Vietnam in a group match on Dec 6.
The national team’s last success at the biennial event came when they beat Singapore 1-0 in the KL SEA Games in 1989.

Meanwhile, Singapore defeated Laos 3-1 to pick up the bronze medal.
*Taken from The Star Online

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