A Charyl Chappuis penalty and a late goal by Kroekrit Taweekarn provided Thailand with crucial momentum on Wednesday night as they bested Malaysia 2-0 in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup finals.
The match played out in front of a packed house at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, with the majority of those present cheering on the War Elephants as they looked to stomp toward a record-tying fourth AFF title.
After a scoreless first half, Thailand took control in the latter stages but rued poor finishing in front of the net. A foul on Adisak Kraisorn in the 72nd minute presented an opportunity for Chappuis, who found the lower corner of the net to put the hosts into the lead.
Malaysia found themselves two goals behind just 14 minutes later through Koekrit’s strike, his third of the tournament.
“We played well in the first half, but our defence collapsed after 70 minutes,” Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh said in his press conference. “We’ll be a different side in the second leg, we have nothing to lose now.
“[2-0] is a hard deficit to overturn, but anything is possible in football.”
41-year-old Thai coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, known to fans as ‘Zico’, appeared satisfied with his team’s performance.
“We did well to soak up the pressure,” the former striker said after the match. “It was a fair game for both teams but we earned the win.”
The two sides will now travel to Malaysia for the second leg, to be played at Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.