Malaysia rallied to beat hosts Laos 3-1 in the second semi-final Monday to book their place in the final against Vietnam which will be played at the same venue of the Main Stadium on Dec 17.
The final appearance is the first for the Malaysians in eight years since 2001 when they lost to Thailand in Kuala Lumpur.
And Monday evening with the expectant fans heavily backing the home team to make their debut in the final of the SEA Games, it was to be the Malaysians who pinned their opponents in their own half at the start of the game.
In the second minute, Abdul Manaf Mamat tested Laos keeper Souvanpheng Panthavong with a rifling shot from 20metre out while several minutes later, striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha’s attempt with placing shot was parried.
Laos put pressure in the midfield through the hard work of Lamnao Singto and Kampheng Sayyavuthi but they just could not get past the Malaysian backline marshalled by Zafuan Adha Abdul Razak.
In the 13th minute, a blanket of silence fell on the Laos fans when off a cross from Manaf Mamat on the right, Badrol Bakhtiar rose high for an overhead kick which went straight into goal.
As the small Malaysian supporters began chanting, Laos came close with a free kick from Kaysone Soukhavong but his attempt was well received by Malaysian custodian Sharbinee Allawee.
Malaysia were a little slower going into the second half and as they laid back to protect their lead, a seemingly innocuous dipping shot from distance in the 72nd minute beat Sharbinee for the first time in the game - much to the jubilation of the home fans.
But in their eagerness to look for their second goal and the lead, Laos left gaps at the back and this allowed Malaysia to capitalise on in the 78th minute when Badrol picked a pass from S. Kunalan to blast home.
And sixth minutes later, Safiq Rahim made it beyond Laos’ reach with the third goal from inside the penalty box to put Malaysia through.
Malaysia’s appearance in the final will allow them the chance for a re-match against Vietnam, whom they lost to in the group stage with a 3-1 score line.