Safee Sali scored both goals for Malaysia in their AFF Suzuki Cup first-leg semifinal against defending champions Vietnam in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday evening, giving their opponents a difficult task in Saturday’s second leg.
At Bukit Jalil, Safee fired with a header in the 60th minute that became a goal due to Vietnam keeper Bui Tan Truong error. The ball slipped through his hands, just in front of his face, while he was standing firmly. The Safee header just found Truong’s position but half a second later, the ball was in the net.
The goal made the Vietnamese side play higher than in the first half, during which they controlled the game better than the home side. However, about 12 minutes before the final whistle, Safee found the target again.
Safee doubled his side’s advantage after the Vietnam keeper managed to save a low shot by Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim. The ball bounded out and Safee finished from very close range.
Vietnam shaded in the first half but failed to score despites of their chances. Malaysia keeper Khairul Fahmi denied at least five times.
In the second leg in Hanoi Saturday, Vietnam need to win by three goals if they are to continue their defending campaign in the ASEAN championship.
Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto said after the Kuala Lumpur match he and his side had belief to do so. “We must believe,” he said.
“But it’s not easy,” added the Portuguese tactician.
In Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam did not have their key players – left defender Huynh Quang Thanh, right defender Doan Viet Cuong and midfielder Phan Van Tai Em, who were injured; and midfielder Nguyen Trong Hoang on suspension.
The key players are set to return for Saturday’s game in Hanoi.
In December last year, Malaysia coach Rajagobal and his Under-23 Malaysian team beat U23 Vietnam, also under Calisto, 1-0 in the Southeast Asian Games final in Laos to take the gold medal.
Calisto and his men returned to Hanoi Thursday to prepare for the second leg. If the home side win 2-0 after 90 minutes, this leads to two extra halves. If they win 3-0, they will go through to the finals against either Indonesia or the Philippines.