Ref attack defended

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian football officials yesterday defended their team after a scuffle at the Southeast Asian Games in which angry players chased the referee, who fled the pitch under police escort.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian football officials yesterday defended their team after a scuffle at the Southeast Asian Games in which angry players chased the referee, who fled the pitch under police escort.

The Malaysian Under-23 players let loose after a 3-1 loss to Vietnam in the Lao capital Vientiane on Sunday - a huge setback in efforts to qualify for the semifinals.

Newspapers said the players threw bottles and chased South Korean referee Kim Jong-Hyeok, who had to run to the middle of the ground to escape. Security forces later moved in to protect the referee and escort him off the pitch.

Malaysian officials admitted the team had behaved badly but said they had been provoked.

"We have registered our strong protest and concern at the referee who seemed to be unfair and biased against the Malaysian team," said Khairy Jamaluddin, the deputy chairperson of the Football Association of Malaysia.

Malaysian coach K Rajagobal blamed the outburst on controversial decisions by Kim, including a red card for Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak.

"The Malaysian team was always on the offensive but whenever our player was in front of the goal. the referee would always make a call not in our favour," he said. - Sapa-AFP

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