Vietnam, who had beaten Malaysia in the group stages, had the better of the first half but could not make their dominance count. Malaysia, superior in the second period, scored with just six minutes to go. Under pressure from Malaysia's Talaha Norshahrul Idlan, Vietnam's Mai Xuan Hop could only divert the ball into his own net and his side were unable to find an equaliser in the time remaining.
Malaysia coach K. Rajagopal said his team were worthy winners. "I think after the Thailand match my players showed what they have," he said. Malaysia put holders Thailand out in the group stage, ending their run of success which started in 1993.
He said his team had shown "a lot of determination, a lot of spirit, a fighting attitude". "I think we deserve to be the champion of the SEA Games in 2009. I think we performed beyond our expectations," he added, saying he had encouraged his team to exploit Vietnam on the break.
Both teams struggled to find their fluency in a scrappy opening spell although as the half wore on Vietnam started to enjoy more of the possession. They went close on 25 minutes with a header well saved by Malaysia's Mohamad Sharbinee Allawee but failed to create many clear openings in a stadium filled with thousands of Vietnam supporters clad in red t-shirts.
In the second half Malaysia threatened much more, particularly on the counter-attack. Saarani Ahmad Fakri missed a good chance with his head at the near post after a cross by Idlan. Four minutes later they had a shot cleared off the line. Zaquan Adha burst through the middle just after coming on as a substitute in the 69th minute but could not finish.
Urged on by their fanatical supporters, Vietnam continued to push forward but left themselves exposed to quick breakaways and eventually paid the price.