Malaysians roared as ferocious Tigers at the National Stadium in Bukit Jali last night.
And they turned the tables on favourites Indonesia for a thumping 3-0 victory in the first-leg final of the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) championships in front of a sell-out 100,000 fans. It was sweet revenge over Indonesia, who thrashed them 5-1 in the opening Group A match on Dec 1.
Mohd Safee Sali scored a brace in the 60th and 73rd minutes while substitute Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin netted the other goal in the 67th minute to give Malaysia a comfortable cushion for the return match at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Indonesia need four goals to pip Malaysia to the title. And coach K. Rajagopal’s boys cannot afford to let their guard down as they did when they lost the opening group match.
Last night, Norsharul Idlan Talaha paved the way for the Malaysian victory, setting up the first two goals.
In a flash of brilliance, Norsharul used his trademark burst and dash tactics to open up the Indonesia defence for Safee to strike in the 60th minute. After that, Malaysia were on fire.
The only two significant incidents in the goalless first half were costly yellow cards picked up by Indonesia’s nippy midfielder Okto Maniani and Malaysia’s right-flanker Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal in the fifth and 44th minutes respectively.
The two have played their last match in the tournament and will be out on suspension in the second-leg match.
In fact, Indonesia were the more dangerous in their counter raids. The best chance to score came after hotshot Christian Gonzales robbed the ball from Amar Rohidan in the centre of the pitch and put Yongky Ari Bowo through for a shot at goal in the 22nd minute.
The best chance for Malaysia fell for S. Kunalan after he weaved past two defenders in the 18th minute but his shot at goal lacked power and gave goalkeeper Markus Harison an easy catch.
The game was stopped after 53 minutes of play as the Indonesians protested against fans distracting them by using laser light beams to shoot into their eyes.
There were a warning on the giant screen telling the fans that the match would be abandoned if there were more of such incidents during the game.
Play resumed after six minutes and Malaysia hit paydirt at the hour mark when Norsharul stole the ball from the right, beat defender Mohammad Nasuha before relaying the ball to Safee for the easiest of task to tap into goal.
Seven minutes later, Mohd Ashaari showed that he too had a lethal right-foot when he picked up Norsharul’s cross to score from inside the box.
Defender Mahali Jasuli did the final damage to Indonesia, who came to Bukit Jalil with the reputation of having won all five previous matches, when he found Safee with a long cross into the box and the Selangor striker made no mistake by nodding the ball into goal in the 73rd minute.