Thailand 2 Malaysia 0: Late strikes down Harimau Malaya
The Harimau Malaya, who were beaten 3-2 earlier in the competition by their counterpart, retained the same starting line-up that demolished Vietnam 4-2 a week ago, while Thailand kept all but one player that started the semi-final second leg win over the Philippines.
Both sides started the match brightly, with Amri Yahyah and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha coming close to open the scoring for Malaysia, and Thailand's Mongkol Tossakrai and Kroekrit Thaweekarn threatening the visitors’ goal within the opening seven minutes.
The match then settled down with clear cut chances being few and far between at both ends, but the home side almost took the lead out of nowhere towards the half-time break.
Malaysia defender Fadhli Shas misjudged a long clearance and allowed Adisak Kraisorn to go one-on-one with goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, who did well to deflect the ball away from his goal and ensure the match stay goalless going into the break.
The Thais started the second half in an attacking fashion and piled pressure around the Malaysia box, but missed most of their efforts.
With Thailand controlling the tempo of the match, the Malaysians eventually succumbed on the 70th minute.
Adisak was tripped by Fadhli inside the box, which resulted in a penalty and Charyl Chappuis made no mistake from the spot.
Dollah Salleh immediately sent on Safee Sali and Baddrol Bakhtiar and pushed his side forward to find an equaliser, but it was the War Elephants that found the back of the net again.
With less than five minutes remaining, the brilliant Chanathip Songkrasin raced clear into Malaysia’s penalty box before playing the ball to Kroekrit to blast it past Farizal.
Sensing blood, the Thais nearly grabbed a third in the final minutes of the game when they executed the 'tiki-taka' style and romped past a helpless Malaysian defence but Chappuis unluckily put his shot wide.
Indra Putra Mahayuddin almost grabbed a valuable away goal for his side with a late header, but Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan, who had been excellent the entire night, was alert to it and quickly palmed it away to compound Malaysia’s misery.
The game finished 2-0, leaving Dollah and his players with plenty to do in the return leg at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium this Saturday.
(Photo: Khairil Ajhar Jaafar/asiana.my)