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Malaysia must take opportunity, says Rajagobal

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal has told his players to seize the chance to book their place in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup after they secured a 2-0 first leg advantage over Vietnam at Bukit Jalil Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Two second-half goals from Safee Sali downed the defending champions in front of a largely partisan crowd to give the Malaysians a significant advantage going into the return fixture in Hanoi on Saturday.

Malaysia have not played in the final of the tournament since its inaugural year in 1996 – when they lost 1-0 to Thailand thanks to a Kiatisuk Senamuang goal in Singapore – and Rajagobal stressed to his squad the need to take full advantage of the opportunity they have given themselves.

"There's another 90 minutes and it's going to be very tough and now I have to come up with a game plan," he said.

"But I have told them that this is a great opportunity and I want the players to cherish it as it might not come around again. We have respect for Vietnam because we know it's not going to be easy."

A fine performance in the second half was central to Malaysia's win as the home side dictated the pace of the final 45 minutes after seeing the Vietnamese have the upper hand in the first period.

"Even though I have said from the start (of the tournament) that we are a very young team, I told them to be focused and optimistic even though Vietnam is a good team," said Rajagobal.

"We started with a spark, we looked positive and then we sat back. Vietnam was very dominant with the ball, they had possession and they were switching play.

"Our defenders tried their hearts out and there were times when Vietnam should have scored.

"But we told them to be more aggressive and raise the tempo because we were going to be asking for trouble going there to play in Hanoi. We showed more aggression and urgency."

The former Selangor coach is now relishing the trip to Hanoi, where a crowd of 40,000 fans will be waiting to greet Rajagobal and his team at the My Dinh Stadium but he knows he needs to ensure his players do not think the job has already been done.

"I said to the players that these chances don't come along much," he said. "Today was the chance and we had to be hungry for it.

"It's not easy for the players in this age group but I'm looking forward to the next game. We know the job is not done yet even though we won 2-0.

"We have to tell the players that because maybe they are overjoyed with this win."