Defending champions Malaysia are through to the semi-finals of the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games are beating Vietnam 2-1 on Tuesday to finish top of Group A.
Holding a one-point lead over their opponents ahead of their clash at the Zayyarthiri Stadium, Harimau Muda only needed to avoid defeat to secure top spot in the group and join already-qualified Singapore in the last four.
However, the Malaysians found themselves under tremendous pressure in the opening 45 as Vietnam looked determined to grab the opener, only to be denied by some excellent goalkeeping by Izham Tarmizi.
As Malaysia continued to stand strong despite wave after wave of attacks from their opponents, it began to look as though they would do enough for the draw that would see them qualify for the last four.
But ten minutes from time, it was them who finally broke the deadlock against the run of play when D. Saarvindran’s right-wing cross sailed over Thamil Arasu but landed kindly for Ashri Chuchu, who made no mistake in blasting a left-footed shot into the back of the net.
And just as the clock ticked over into injury-time, they added a second to kill off the contest as they hit their opponents on the counter; Irfan Fazail playing an incisive pass to Saarvindran, who skipped inside his man before firing past Tran Buu Ngoc at his near post.
Vietnam did manage to pull one back in the 95th minute when Mac Hong Quan scored on the rebound after his initial effort had been saved by Izham, but it proved little more than a consolation.
As a result of finishing top of Group A, Harimau Muda will now meet Indonesia in Thursday’s semi-finals in what will be a rematch of the 2011 final, while Thailand meet Singapore in the other last-four encounter.
In Tuesday’s late kickoff, Brunei ended their campaign pointless after falling to a 3-2 loss at the hands of Laos.
The Bruneians did manage to score their first goal of the tournament in the 34th minute when Mazizi Mazlan found the back of the net, but Laos took just four minutes to equalise through a Ketsada Souksavanh strike.
A minute after the break, the Laotians edged ahead when Soukaphone Vongchiengkam scored his second goal of the Games, before Vilayout Xayyabounaou stretched their lead even further with a third in the 52nd minute.
Brunei did manage to pull one back seven minutes from time thanks to an Azwan Ali effort but they were just unable to pull level, and ended bottom of the group pointless while Thim Xad finished in fourth with four points.
Tuesday’s 2013 SEA Games Group A Results
Malaysia 2-1 Vietnam
Laos 3-2 Brunei