SEA Games hero Thanabalan credits father as Malaysia book final

Malaysia striker N. Thanabalan paid tribute to his father for helping develop his aerial prowess which guided the home nation to a place in Tuesday's Southeast (SEA) Asian Games men's football final.

Thanabalan scored the only goal of the game in the 1-0 semifinal victory over Indonesia at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday night.

His deft header into the bottom corner confirmed Malaysia's path to the gold medal match where they will face defending champions, Thailand.

The Thais scored an added-time winner against Myanmar for a 1-0 victory in the other semifinal at Selayang Stadium.

"My favourite is headers. Since young, most of my goals have come through my head," Thanabalan told ESPN FC.

"I want to thank my Dad, along with my coach, for helping me enhance this skill. We have a great chance to win this competition now, and we must not waste it.

"I owe my goals to my teammates, who are always accurate in their crosses from set pieces. I anticipated another good one and am happy to take us to the final."

The Felcra FC forward's finish four minutes from time settled matters in a dogged affair in front of 80,000 fans in a repeat of the 2011 SEA Games final.

Scoring chances were few and far between until Thanabalan rose highest to nod home his fourth goal of the competition.

Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee was calm in victory, and urged his players to not lose sight of the mission at hand.

"It is not over yet, the players now need to focus on the final. I'm proud of them for rising to the occasion today, and it's good that we did not concede as well," Ong said.

"Thailand may have beaten us last month, but this match will be different, especially in front of our fans."

Malaysia are bidding to win a gold medal on home soil for the first time since 1989.

Indoneisa coach Luis Milla was "sad" after failing to take the visitors a step closer to the tournament they have won two times.

"I feel sad for the people of Indonesia that we lost. We gave it everything and it was tough luck to lose," the former Spain under-23 coach said.

"I hope we can give a better performance against Myanmar for the bronze medal [on Tuesday]."

Millas also expressed concerned about the safety in the stadium after one of his players was injured when a smoke bomb went off as Malaysia scored.

A few Indonesian players tried to protest the incident to referee W.K. Lakmal Weerakkody after the match before being stopped by officials.