It was one step too far for Malaysia at the end and their magnificent run in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup came to an end after Nguyen Anh Duc’s solitary goal in the second goal became the separating point between champions Vietnam and runnersup Malaysia.
The 1-0 win for the home side meant that The Golden Dragons achieved only their second AFF title with a 3-2 aggregate score in front of a delighted packed My Dinh Stadium crowd.
For Malaysia, the third match played against Vietnam in the competition this year was undoubtedly the best that Tan Cheng Hoe’s boys have displayed against their opponents but the team everyone predicted to be the tournament favourites were the ones emerging as champions.
"Three games in a row we conceded an early goal and in some way that affected our game and confidence. This time we didn’t manage to come back even though we had a few chances. If we had manage to find a quick equaliser, it would have helped us to win of course."
"We played one superb game but our best game was not enough. That shows our level and I hope the players can learn from this. I want to give my compliments to my players who gave their best effort. These are a bunch of young players who can have performed and hopefully they can keep the consistency as they have a long way to go.
"It has been an amazing journey for these players. They have done very well to come to this level. We didn’t start well but after a few matches, we got the confidence and managed to gel together. For me personally, I feel that the players did the best but we need to move to the next level and with the way we’re playing, I believe we have a good future," said Cheng Hoe in the post match press conference.
The early goal conceded to Anh Duc spoiled whatever plans Cheng Hoe for the match and showed that for these group of players, there's still much to learn. The same goal has been scored by Vietnam in the two matches prior and unfortunately for Malaysia, it showed that they did not learn their lesson.
Harimau Malaya did have chances to come back into the game with opportunities falling onto the feet of Mohamadou Sumareh and Syahmi Safari but they all found Dang Van Lam in inspiring form. As the game went longer without Malaysia finding the equaliser, Vietnam's defence grew stronger and stronger.
Before the start of the tournament, Malaysia were not expected to reach this far even though the target set by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) was to reach the final. Now that they have hit the target, FAM should move quickly to sort out Cheng Hoe's contract extension and ensure that progression made from this tournament can be continued.
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