HANOI (AFP/BERNAMA) - Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe admitted that the early goal by Vietnam in the second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final on Saturday (Dec 15) "destroyed" all his plans for the game against Vietnam.
That goal by Nguyen Anh Duc proved decisive as Vietnam beat Malaysia 1-0 at My Dinh National Stadium to lift the Asean Football Federation trophy for the second time.
The Vietnamese had allowed a two-goal lead to slip in a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday.
But Vietnam were determined to press home their home advantage early on and Duc restored their advantage when he volleyed home from close range after only six minutes.
However, they had to survive several scares as goalkeeper Dang Van Lam made a series of fine saves to preserve Vietnam's lead, with Park Hang-seo's men winning 3-2 on aggregate to claim the Asean regional title for the first time since 2008.
Vietnam had the benefit of two away goals from the first leg and they made an excellent start in Hanoi, taking the lead when Nguyen Quang Hai's chip from the left found Duc, whose volley was too powerful for goalkeeper Farizal Marlias to keep out of his net.
Mohamadou Sumareh went close to levelling for Harimau Malaya in the 11th minute with a clever back-heel which went narrowly wide.
Do Hung Dung should have done better for Vietnam in the 33rd minute after he received the ball unmarked on the edge of the box, only to shoot wide.
The hosts had to be indebted to a stellar display from Lam, who was called into action just before half-time to tip Syahmi Safari's first-time effort over his crossbar.
He showed fine reflexes again after the break to claw Sumareh's header away to safety, before making another fine save to keep out Safawi Rasid's free kick.
Ten players - six Vietnamese and four Malaysians - were booked in the scrappy encounter, which culminated in the dismissal of Shahrul Saad in added time when he received his second yellow card after committing a foul on the halfway line to snuff out a counter-attack.
Hai, who scored three goals and was an ever-present for Vietnam in the tournament, was named the Most Valuable Player as Malaysia's dream of their second title since 2010 ended.
Tan, in his post-match press conference, said letting in early goals against Vietnam in three encounters against them in the AFF Suzuki Cup campaign this time around was something which should not have happened.
"Indeed, I am aware that the three times we met Vietnam, we let in an early goal. When it happened tonight, it affected the players' confidence. In the previous match (on Dec 11), we did a comeback, but this time, the players could not score and some scoring opportunities went begging."