Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed celebrate Malaysia’s goal against Indonesia in Nusa Dua, Bali yesterday. - BERNAMA
Malaysia did what many had said was impossible yesterday by beating Indonesia 1-0 at the famed Gelora Bung Karno to advance to the Sea Games football semi-finals in style.
Coach Ong Kim Swee sat in the stands for the last 25 minutes of the match but his men hung on to record a famous win, courtesy of Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim's early strike which sent Malaysia top of Group A and a last four clash with Myanmar tomorrow.
The win erased all doubt of Malaysia's ability to defend the football gold medal as Indonesia sweat over a meeting with 2009 runners-up Vietnam in the semi-finals.
Malaysia began with a purpose as they only needed a point after Singapore beat Thailand 2-0 in an earlier match and were richly deserving of their early lead.
After Baddrol Bakhtiar tested Indonesian goalkeeper Andritany Ardhiyasa with a shot from outside the box in the third minute, Shayrul scored his first goal at the Sea Games in the 17th minute.
Syahrul, who was only on the pitch for three minutes after replacing the injured Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria, collected a through ball from Mahalli Jasuli, sprinted into the box and placed it smartly past Andritany.
Having taken the lead, Malaysia maintained control of the game with 17-year-old Nazmi Faiz Mansor at the heart of almost every move.
Malaysia looked to catch Indonesia with fast breaks down the flanks and quite often Syahrul and Fandi Othman made deep penetrating runs behind the home defence.
But it was off a corner that Malaysia almost made it 2-0 in the 25th minute as Fadhli Shas saw his header hit a defender on the line and bounce off the post to safety.
Indonesia hardly troubled Malaysian goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat as centrebacks Muslim Ahmad and Fadhli dealt with every ball that came their way, always one step ahead of the rest.
Malaysia, though, had a let off in the 52nd minute when Ferdinand Sinaga mistimed his shot from inside the six-yard box with just Fahmi to beat before Titus Bonai went close three minutes later, poking wide of the far post.
Indonesian players began resorting to some rough play and Ferdinand Sinaga was only shown a yellow card for a studs-on challenge against Syahrul in the 64th mminute as Kim Swee was banished to the stands by referee Fahad Al-Kassar of the United Arab Emirates for his protests.
The home side continued to press for the equaliser with Oktoviani Maniani's header going over the bar in the 79th minute.
Izzaq Faris Ramlan should have scored in the 84th minute when Malaysia broke forward but miscontrolled Syahrul's pass with just the keeper to beat which allowed a defender to clear.