The War Elephants of Thailand have their eyes firmly on a fourth AFF Suzuki Cup title, with Harimau Malaya ready to stand in their way after both teams made convincing statements in the second leg of their respective semifinals this week.
After losing 1-2 to group stage co-hosts Vietnam in a first-leg loss marred by crowd violence, Malaysia stormed back on Thursday night with an explosive 4-2 win at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.
The visitors took the lead after just three minutes through Safiq Rahim’s penalty, making it 2-0 on Norshahrul Idlan Talaha’s goal in the 16th minute.
Vietnam hero Le Cong Vinh cut Malaysia’s lead in half through a 20th-minute penalty of his own, but the home side was further undone by Dinh Tien Thanh’s own goal just nine minutes later. Shukor Adan made it 4-1 to Malaysia just before halftime, and Vinh’s second goal in the 80th minute was not enough to turn the tide for Toshiya Miura’s men.
On Wednesday, Thailand made short work of a spirited Philippines side, easily winning 3-0 via Chanathip Songkrasin’s early strike and a brace by Kroekrit Thaweekarn. The big win in front of a sold-out Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok was a relief after the two sides played to a scoreless first-leg draw in Manila, a game that saw Thailand play with 10 men for the last 20 minutes.
The finals pairing is a rematch of the first ASEAN Football Championship final in 1996, which Thailand won 1-0. Thailand have won twice more since then and come runners-up in three additional tournaments, while Malaysia won their only regional title in 2010 against Indonesia.
Thailand will host the first leg on December 17 in Bangkok, while Malaysia hosting the second leg at Shah Alam Stadium on December 20.