|Valiant effort: Viet Nam's midfieder Tran Manh Dung (right) vies for a ball against a Malaysian defender during their SEA Games' group round match. Malaysian won 2-1. — VNA/VNS Photo Quang Nhut
NAY PYI TAW (VNS)— Defending champion Malaysia sent Viet Nam home earlier than expected after their 2-1 victory in the men's Group A football match at Myanmar's SEA Games.
Ashri bin Chuchu and Devandran Saarvindran each scored one goal for Malaysia, while substitute Mac Hong Quan had a narrow goal for the Vietnamese side.
The result of the group was important for both sides, with Viet Nam being in a worse situation, as they must win while Malaysia needed only a draw to advance to the semi-final round.
The Vietnamese created attacks from the beginning, seeking an early goal. They were successful when they set up their domination, pushing Malaysia in defence for much of the first half.
A number of shots were missed by the Vietnamese side, as strikers Ha Minh Tuan, Pham Van Thang and captain Nguyen Van Quyet failed to find the net.
Quyet's opportunity in the last seconds of the first half seemed the most threatening one, as he faced goalkeeper Izham Tarmizi in the box, but his close-range shot found Tarmizi's hands.
All three goals in the match came in the fourth quarter.
Chuchu received a ball from the right wing and kicked freely, beating goalie Tran Buu Ngoc, who dived, but failed to save his net.
Ten minutes later, all Vietnamese players were pushed up to find an equal, leaving keeper Ngoc alone. This was a big mistake, as Saarvindran stole the moment and made it 2-0 with a narrow shoot.
Oversea Vietnamese Quan, who was on the field in the second half, scored the only goal for Viet Nam in the last added minute, when all Vietnamese players and people knew that their path in the SEA Games had ended.
It is the first time in 10 years that Viet Nam were ousted from the SEA Games group stage.
"On behalf of the whole team, I am sorry to all Vietnamese fans who have put their trust in us, but we could not do it," said coach Hoang Van Phuc.
The coach said he was sad, but had not thought about resigning.
"I need time for it. A team's defeat has different reasons, which need to be solved. When we are back in Viet Nam we will meet to discuss everyone's responsibilities," Phuc said.
The coach, however, confirmed that Viet Nam had a good match yesterday, but lost because their strikers did not work as perfectly as they must.
Meanwhile, Ong Kim Swee of Malaysia said his team had scored a persuasive victory. Vietnamese forwards were sharp, he said, but his defenders were strong and played with discipline.
He also said that Viet Nam played under more pressure than Malaysia. It forced them to move up for attacks, leaving many holes for Malaysian strikers.
With 10 points after three wins and one draw, Malaysia tops Group A, followed by Singapore, which was already qualified last week.
Malaysia will meet Indonesia, while Singapore plays Thailand in the semi-final matches tomorrow. — VNS