Thailand 2 Malaysia 0 (aggregate 3-1)
Thailand won through to their sixth final in the AFF Suzuki Cup on Thursday with a 2-0 victory over defending champions Malaysia, who played the whole of the second half with 10 men after the dismissal of defender Fadhli Shas.
Second-half goals from in-form striker Teerasil Dangda and the exceptional Theerathon Bunmathon gave three-time winners Thailand a 3-1 aggregate win over a Malaysia side that put up a brave defence of their title in the semi-final at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium.
The teams drew 1-1 in the first leg in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Teerasil equalising for Thailand with a bullet header after Norshahrul Idlan Talaha had opened the scoring.
Thailand will meet Singapore in the AFF Suzuki Cup final with the first leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on December 19 and the return game in Bangkok on December 22.
Khairul Amri fired home the only goal of a tight contest on Wednesday as three-time champions Singapore booked their place in the final with a 1-0 victory over the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Thailand coach Winfried Schafer said that the time had come for them to win the Asean crown for a fourth time.
“After this win, now I think we want to get the cup,” he said. “Thailand last won (the AFF Suzuki Cup) 10 years ago, the time has come to win again.
“It will not be easy because Singapore are a good side but I will be looking for a good result in the first leg and then present the cup to the fans back here in Bangkok.”
He said that it had been difficult playing against 10 men but the players were up to the task.
“It is not easy against 10 men but I trust my team and they played well in the second half and only gave Malaysia one chance. We showed good spirit and good teamwork and everybody in the camp is very happy,” he said.
Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal said the sending off had changed the game.
“If we had all our players I am confident we would have had a good result and probably beaten Thailand,” he said. “In the first half we absorbed all the attacks and frustrated them. The sending off was the change.”
He added that Malaysia had gifted Thailand their first goal.
“The first goal was a gifted goal,” he said. “Our defender miskicked (probably because of the uneven pitch) and Teerasil was there.”
Thailand named the same team that started the first leg while Malaysia made one change, winger S. Kunanlan coming in for Gary Steven Robbat. Striker Safee Sali, who came on with 15 minutes remaining of the first game, was again on the bench.
Schafer, sent off during the first leg, took a seat in the stands with his assistant Mano Polking directing operations from the sidelines.
The Thais started brightly and Jakkapan Pornsai missed a golden chance after just three minutes. He pounced on a mistake by Aidil Zafuan Radzak on the edge of the box but Farizal Marlias was quick off his line and smothered the ball at Jakkapan’s feet.
At the other end, Safiq Rahim found himself in space 20 yards out but his effort sailed harmlessly over the bar.
Thailand were mixing it up in attack with Theerathon and Anucha Kitpongsri constantly switching positions down the left and Datsakorn Thonglao playing in a forward role with striker Teersasil operating in midfield.
Datsakorn’s instinct in front of goal let him down in the 16th minute, the dynamic midfielder mishitting his shot with the goal beckoning after good work down the right from Piyaphon Buntao and Theerathon.
Thailand were virtually laying siege to the Malaysian goal but the titleholders were proving resolute in defence with Aidil outstanding.
After 30 minutes, Datsakorn found Teerasil with a defence-splitting ball only for the goal hero from the first leg to pull his shot wide of the post with only Farizal to beat.
In an explosive end to the half, Malaysia were reduced to 10 men with central defender Fadhli receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence after an off-the-ball incident with Datsakorn. The Thai midfielder was also shown a yellow card.
Apipoo Suntornpanavej came on for Phichitpong Choeichia at half-time and the substitute was immediately in the action, surging into the penalty area to meet a cross ball only to scuff his shot wide.
The ever-alert Theerathon spotted Farizal positioned in the centre of his goal for a free kick and had the keeper scrambling to touch his angled shot away for a corner in the 55th minute.
Thailand broke the deadlock in the 59th minute through danger man Teerasil. Captain Panupong Wongsa headed a clearance from Farizal into the path of the striker and he took advantage of a Amar Rohidan miskick by hitting home his fifth goal of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Teerasil should have put the match effectively out of Malaysia’s reach in the 62nd minute but his control let him down and the busy Farizal came off his line to snuff out the danger.
However, Thailand did add their second two minutes later, Theerathon finding the net after Farizal had half-stopped Jakkapan’s free kick.
After withstanding intense pressure from the marauding Thais, Malaysia staged a late bid to save the tie and came close to reducing the deficit in the 80th minute when goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan, in his first real action of the second half, saved a header from Norshahrul at the back post.