From Zulhilmi Supaat
VIENTIANE, Dec 6 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's hopes of making it to the semi-finals of the Laos SEA Games men's football competition, suffered a major setback after a 1-3 loss to Vietnam, at the Laos National Stadium here Sunday.
Malaysia who beat Timor Leste 11-0 on Wednesday, were not able to find their scoring boots today, in a match dominated by the fitter and faster Vietnamese and even the solitary goal was a result of an own goal by Vo Hoang Quang who headed the ball into his own net.
It was the second consecutive time Malaysia suffered a defeat at the hands of Vietnam in the SEA Games, since Vietnam scored a similar victory during the Korat SEA Games in Thailand two years ago, a result that doused Malaysia's hopes of winning a medal.
Vietnam scored their first goal through Nguyen Cong Minh in the 11th minute after South Korean referee Kim Jong Hyeok awarded a penalty for handball.
Jolted by the goal, K. Rajagobal's boys went on the offensive in search of an equaliser, leaving gapping holes in defence and Vietnam exploited the opportunity when Mai Tien Thanh set out on a solo run to beat Malaysian goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Marlias in the 24th minute.
A minute later, Malaysia were thrown a lifeline when an own goal by Hoang Quang, reduced the deficit to 1-2, but any hopes of a resurgence diminished when Nguyen Trong Hoang struck the third goal to restore a two goal advantage in the 43rd minute.
Rajagobal tried to inject fresh blood by introducing Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abd Radzak, K. Gurusamy and S. Kunalan for the non-effective Amar Rohidan, Abdul Manaf Mamat and Ahmad Fakri Saarani, but though the trio managed to mount a series of attacks, they were not able to penetrate a stout Vietnamese defence.
Meanwhile, Rajagobal attributed the loss to the inability of his young players to control their temper, due to a number of poor decisions made by the match officials.
"There were many questionable decisions by the referee and that resulted in the players losing their rhythm and focus. Zaquan may also be penalised further for his red card," he said after the match.
Even after the match, players who were unhappy with the match officials, surrounded them while some threw water bottles into the pitch, but Rajagobal managed to calm down his boys and restore order.
With the win, Vietnam top Group A with seven points from three matches while Thailand are second with four points from two matches and Malaysia has three.
Malaysia will now have to beat Thailand in their next match to have any chance of making it to the next stage.