SHAH ALAM: With the Malaysia-Indonesia football semifinal match appearing to be heading to extra-time, find of the tournament N.Thanabalan struck again, this time with a neat header from a corner kick in the 87th minute to put Malaysia in the final.
Malaysia will be meeting Thailand on Aug 29th at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil.
Playing before a capacity crowd at the 80,000-seat Shah Alam Stadium, Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s boys had sounded an early warning when Muhammad Safawi Rasid made a darted run in the Indonesian box and made a precise pass to Thanabalan but he failed to convert.
In the 29th minute, the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) player again threatened the opponents coached by Luis Milla but his piledriver was parried off by Indonesian keeper Satria Tama Hardiyanto.
The entry of substitute Muhammad Jafri Muhammad Firdaus Chew to replace S.Kumaarhan who had to be stretchered out made a positive impact on the team but there were no goals from either side till half-time.
On resumption. Jafri came close to scoring in the 65th minute but his shot was just an inch wide and five minutes later the Penang player had another chance but his header also missed.
With 20 minutes left, Indonesia who last made it to the final in 2011 stepped up their attacks but the Malaysian defence marshalled by captain Muhammad Adib Zainudin was rock solid.
With the clock ticking down, Malaysia got their seventh corner in the 87th minute which was taken by Muhammad Nor Azam Abdul Azih and Thanabalan was there to nod it home and dashing all hopes of and Indonesia-Thailand final.
It was his fourth goal in the competition.
Thailand had also beaten Myanmar by the same margin with the winner coming in added time.
With the victory on Saturday night, Malaysia will be looking to repeat their 1989 feat when they last won the football gold medal on home soil. –Bernama