Malaysia's SEA Games gold medal dream ends as defending champions Vietnam set up Thailand decider

Malaysia's bid to win a first men's football gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games since 2011 has come to an end, after they were beaten 1-0 after extra-time by defending champions Vietnam in Thursday's semifinal at the Viet Tri Stadium.

After neither side could find the breakthrough in regulation time, it was Nguyen Tien Linh who emerged as the hero for the Vietnamese with a 111th-minute winner to set up a gold medal match meeting on Sunday with familiar foes Thailand -- who were also 1-0 winners over Indonesia in the other last-four clash.

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The story could have been a far different one for Vietnam and Tien Linh in particular, after the usually-reliable striker had missed a couple of gilt-edged chances earlier in the contest.

His first opening arrived in the 27th minute when he got in behind the opposition defence, only to screw his shot across the face of goal with only Malaysia goalkeeper Azri Ghani to beat.

Tien Linh had another opportunity three minutes before halftime when Le Van Do played a cross right at his feet but he again failed to get clean contact on his strike as it was saved by Azri, who then recovered brilliantly to dive bravely at the feet of Nham Manh Dung to prevent Vietnam from converting on the rebound.

With eight minutes remaining, Malaysia had a chance to pull off a smash-and-grab win but Safwan Mazlan was unable to keep his header down from inside the area after being picked out by Nik Akif Syahiran's tantalising freekick delivery.

As the game then went into extra-time, it continued to look as though Vietnam's profligacy might come back to haunt them -- Bui Hoang Viet Anh becoming the next culprit in the 98th minute when he sliced an effort off target from just ten yards out after Do Hung Dung's corner had been diverted into his path at the back post.

But with the tie just nine minutes away from the dreaded penalty shootout, Tien Linh made amends for his earlier misses as he punished the otherwise-impressive Azri for a reckless decision to come charging off his line at a set-piece, climbing highest amid a sea of bodies to send a thumping header into the back of the unguarded net.

While Vietnam are now one triumph away from a second SEA Games gold medal, Malaysia will have to pick themselves up with a bronze medal still on offer against Indonesia on Sunday.