Malaysia beat Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate to win the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup for the first time in the country’s history on Dec. 29 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
A loss of 1-2 to the hosts in the final’s second leg match could not stop Malaysia from opening a new chapter in the history of the regional football tournament which up until now had been dominated by three-time winners Thailand and Singapore.
Mohd Safee Sali opened the scoring for Malaysia nine minutes after the break. Until then Indonesia had made things difficult for their opponents, attacking aggressively with a view to levelling the three-goal deficit they faced after the first leg match.
The talented player who scored twice in the semi-final against Vietnam got his goal after he received a long-range pass and shot truly into the net.
The goal made him the top striker of the tournament with five goals to his name.
Indonesia, with their President watching on, found their equaliser in the 71st minute when defender Mohammad Nasuha scored from near the edge of the box.
His team doubled their tally 17 minutes later when Muhammad Ridwan scored his third goal at the tournament. His strong shot deflected off a Malaysian player before entering the net.
Malaysia is surprise winner of the tournament. At the previous championship two years ago they were ousted in the qualifying round.
This time they were placed in the ‘group of death’ together with Thailand and Indonesia and after their humiliating 1-5 loss to hosts Indonesia in the group stage, no one gave them a chance.
The team, which only made it through to the knockout stage after Thailand, the most powerful team in Southeast Asia, was eliminated from the championship.
However, after that they had a complete reversal of form. First there was a great 2-0 victory over defending champion Vietnam in the semi-final and then a 3-0 victory over Indonesia in the final’s first leg on Dec. 26.
It has been be a very successful year for Malaysia with two important titles going to them in the last twelve months. Last December Malaysia defeated Vietnam 1-0 to claim the Southeast Asian Games Cup.
The Dec. 29 match did not help Indonesia’s coach Alfred Riedl shake off his ‘Mr Silver’ moniker. Once again, he pocketed a silver medal, just as he has done on every single occasion he has taken a team to a tournament final. The previous occasions were when he worked with Vietnam several years back.