Malaysia 2 Thailand 3: The War Elephants march on
Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh made two changes, introducing Safee Sali up front and Safiq Rahim in midfield, while his Thai counterpart Kiatisuk Senamuang retained only six of the players from the 2-1 win over Singapore.
It was Safiq who had the first sight of goal, firing a free-kick into the wall just two minutes into the match.
Not long after, Thailand began to assert themselves with their patient build-up play as they had two chances in as many minutes that were blocked before Khairul Fahmi Che Mat pushed a high shot by Kirati Keawsombut over the bar.
Kroekrit Thaweekarn and Adisorn Promrak should have done better in the 18th and 26th minutes respectively to convert free headers in the box, and they were made to pay for their profligacy upon the half hour mark.
Amri Yahyah looked to have miscontrolled a high ball, but he regained his composure, played a one-two with Safiq and fired a low shot into the bottom far corner to give Malaysia the lead.
Newly inspired, Safee powered a shot from long range two minutes later that was saved by Kawin Thammasatchanan, while the War Elephants had four shots off target to show for in a five-minute spell of pressure.
Kiatisuk looked to have gambled by bringing on Adisak Kraisorn four minutes before half time, but in just two minutes on the pitch, the striker met Charyl Chappuis’ low cross from the left and flicked a first-time shot into goal for the equaliser.
As the match inched towards half-time, Malaysia almost retook the lead out of nothing as Amri audaciously chipped the loose ball from inside his own half towards Kawin’s goal that unfortunately pinged back off the top of the crossbar.
Thailand continued to put their shots off target at the start of the second period and Malaysia made them pay again by retaking the lead.
In the 61st minute, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha did well to hold the ball up on the left and laid it off to Safiq, who twisted and turned as he cut inside the box before curling a low shot inside the far post.
Chanatip Songkrasin had threatened all match long, and in the 72nd minute he got past Indra Putra Mahayuddin to fire a powerful shot against the base of the post.
The ball was poorly cleared, and Chanatip returned into the Malaysian box to cut the ball back for Chappuis, who fired emphatically into the roof of the net for his side’s second equaliser of the night.
The game began to open up as the players tired, and only a stunning point-blank save by Kawin stopped Afif’s header from nestling in the back of the net with three minutes to play.
Just as it appeared that the match would end in a draw, substitute Prakit Deeporm was sprung in an advanced position by a clever pass from Sarach Yooyen.
His cross was met by Adisak, who took one touch to get past Afif and whipped the ball past Khairul Fahmi with his second for a late winner.
With six points, Thailand are through to the semi-finals, while Malaysia will need a win against hosts Singapore on Saturday if they are to join their northern neighbours in the next round.