SHAH ALAM • Malaysia qualified for the SEA Games football final last night, after they edged out Indonesia 1-0 in the semi-final at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Striker N. Thanabalan was the hero for the hosts as his 86th- minute header turned out to be the winner.
The tense game was witnessed by more than 80,000 spectators at the stadium, while hundreds of thousands watched on big screens throughout the country, reported The Star.
Malaysia and Indonesia had earlier warned their fans to behave, following fears that there would be violence over a gaffe by the SEA Games organising committee.
It had published an upside-down Indonesian flag in the official SEA Games souvenir, drawing outrage from groups in Indonesia.
On the field, despite controlling play for most of the match, Malaysia found it hard to penetrate the Indonesian defence.
The hosts resorted to attacks from the flanks and floated balls into the goalmouth in a bid to break the deadlock.
Thanabalan finally managed to find the net from a corner kick with his effort placed well beyond Indonesian goalkeeper Satria Tama.
Earlier, defending champions Thailand squeezed into the final after beating Myanmar 1-0 at the Selayang Stadium.
Skipper Chenrop Samphaodi was the toast of the Thais when he headed in a stoppage-time goal after six minutes was added on by the referee, forcing the Myanmar players to fall on their knees in disappointment.
Thailand, who had started their Group B matches in pedestrian fashion, picked up the momentum in their final group match against Vietnam, beating their arch-rivals 3-0, to make it to the semi-finals and maintain their gold-medal hopes.
Despite their impressive form against Vietnam on Thursday, Thailand failed to find the target against a hardworking Myanmar side who defended stoutly until the killer blow came from a perfect cross from the left.
The defeat saw Myanmar's gold medal drought in football continue since 1973, when they won the title as Burma.
Thailand coach Worrawoot Srimaka praised his players and claimed his side were ready for the final.
"At this stage we have no fear. We will do our best as we want to offer our people a great memory," he said.
The final on Tuesday at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil will be a repeat of the 2001 SEA Games final in Kuala Lumpur, when the two sides met.
Thailand won 1-0 then.
Malaysia last won the gold in the 2011 Jakarta Games.