Vietnam expect, Malaysia determined
Kuala Lumpur: Park Hang-seo's Vietnam hold a slim edge over Malaysia ahead of their AFF Cup final second leg tie at My Dinh Stadium on Saturday.
Tan Cheng Hoe's Harimau Malaya clawed their way back from a two-goal deficit at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday to force a 2-2 draw in the first leg.
Vietnam’s two away goals, together with the fact that the Golden Dragons have so far only conceded four goals in the competition, gives them an edge in a final featuring two teams seeking to win the title for the second time.
Vietnam’s potency in front of goal is also a source of confidence for them, with seven players - the most among all teams - having scored in their campaign.
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Malaysia Goals scored: 11 Goals conceded: 7 Top scorer: Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (5 goals)
Cheng Hoe, who is seeking to emulate former Malaysia national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal’s title feat in 2010, saw his side fall behind 2-0 in the first half against an organised Vietnam outfit in the first leg.
Malaysia, however, refused to give up and Shahrul Saad pulled one back in the 36th minute before Safawi Rasid completed the comeback with a stunning free-kick in the 60th.
The Harimau Malaya tried hard for a third goal but could not find their way past the Vietnamese defence, including denying Syafiq Ahmad's free-kick in the final minute.
Despite giving away two precious goals at home, former midfielder Cheng Hoe remains confident of Malaysia’s chances in Hanoi.
“We have a mountain to climb in Hanoi. Of course, there is a chance as we did not lose the first leg but it can only be achieved if my players perform 100 percent.
“They need to be prepared both mentally and physically for the challenge.
“We need early goals to gain confidence which we can build on during the match. Everyone just needs to focus and also minimise mistakes,” said Cheng Hoe, who was Rajagobal’s assistant in the successful 2010 campaign.
Vietnam Goals scored: 14 Goals conceded: 4 Top scorers: Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Anh Duc, Nguyen Cong Phuong (3 goals)
Just like how the Philippines were undone in the semi-finals, Vietnam’s attacking trio of Nguyen Anh Duc, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Nguyen Quang Hai - who have scored three goals each in the tournament - proved difficult for Malaysia to handle in the first leg.
Vietnam showed how clinical they can be when they silenced the capacity crowd at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil following a three-minute blitz which saw Nguyen Huy Hung score in the 22nd minute and Pham Duc Huy in the 25th.
Despite having lesser possession in the first leg, Vietnam had more shots at goal - 15 to Malaysia’s eight, and looked the more dangerous side.
Vietnam, the 2008 champions, look comfortably placed and Park is confident of defeating Malaysia at the My Dinh Stadium.
“We played well and scored two goals. However, we failed to stop Malaysia from scoring through set-pieces.
“I am disappointed but the good thing is we did not lose. The return leg is in Hanoi, so we still have a chance to do better.
“Of course, the focus in training will be on defending set-pieces and also creating more variety in attacks,” said Park.
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