It took an own goal from a Vietnam defender to end Malaysia's 20-year gold drought in the SEA Games football tournament at the Main Stadium in Vientiane, Thursday night. Malaysia won 1-0.
With just seven minutes remaining on the clock and Vietnam piling on the pressure as they look to complete the double in football, the Malaysians launched an attack that ended disastrously for the favourites.
Midfielder Safiq Rahim, who has been a menace all night long, crashed in a cross from the left but in his haste to clear the ball, defender Mai Xuan Hop delivered it into his own net.
It was a cruel way for the final to be decided but we've seen worse in football these days. Just ask the Irish who lost out to a slippery sleight of hand from Thierry Henry.
Xuan Hop could only look to the gods in disbelief while his goalkeeper, the lanky Bai Tran Truong screamed in vain as the Malaysians reeled away in delight for the well-deserved lead.
For Malaysia, the dream of gold and money must have instantly filled the heads of the young Tigers who were never expected to even make it to the semi-finals after a sputtering start in the first round.
Still, they knew they were on the verge of providing Malaysia with their most glorious moment in football for two decades and quickly took up their places to defend the goal.
Vietnam refused to give up and with the referee generously adding on six minutes, the fight was clearly on for the gold.
The strikers charged furiously forward and two minutes into extra time, Vietnam should have equalised when striker Mai Tien Thanh was provided with a golden opportunity after evading marker Mohd Sabre Mat Abu.
In all honesty, it was easier to score the chance than to blow it but that's just what Mai Tien Thanh did.
Tranh Dinh Dong picked out Tien Thanh from the left and sent in a near-perfect cross to his compatriot at the top of the six-yard box.
The 15,000 Vietnamese fans were utterly dismayed when Tien Thanh, who just needed to stab the ball in, blasted into oblivion. That shot also ended Vietnam's hopes of landing their first ever SEA Games gold.
Vietnam were aiming to pick up their second biggest silverware in as many years after sensationally wresting the AFF Suzuki Cup in Hanoi last year.
And they were also chasing the men’s football gold to complete their grand double following the victory by the women’s team just the day before.
For Malaysia, the gold medal tonight marked an end of 20-years of despair and pain for millions of fans in the country who last saw gold in the 1989 Games held in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia then beat Singapore 3-1 in the final while the last time Malaysia claimed the SEA Games gold away from home was in the 1979 Jakarta Games.
In the meantime, in the battle for the bronze medal, Singapore defeated hosts Laos 3-1. The goals were scored by Mohd Khairulnizam Mohd Kamal (23rd), Mohd Fazli Ayob (53rd) and Mohd Fadhil Noh (87th) while Lamnao Singto scored for the hosts in the 89th minute. -AFF.