Two late goals saw Thailand capture their fourth AFF Suzuki Cup despite a 3-2 loss, claiming a 4-3 aggregate victory in year-end ASEAN football climax.
On Saturday night at Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Malaysia were given a war elephant-sized task of reducing their first leg deficit of 0-2. Rattled by an early goal and a determined Harimau squad, Thailand looked as though they would rue their missed chances and poor quality in the final third.
Despite the daunting deficit, the hosts found themselves in a good mood just seven minutes into the game when Safiq Rahim converted from a questionable penalty call to reduce the deficit to a single goal.
Mohd Farizal Marlias’ blushes were saved moments later, when his attempted clearance from his own penalty area hit the on-rushing Adisak Kraisorn, deflecting wide of the net. 21-year-old defender Peerapat Notechaiya had Farizal Marlias scrambling shortly after, when his long range bullet scraped the outside edge of the woodwork.
Kroekrit Thaweekarn was unable to capitalise on a squared ball to his feet later in the first half, losing his balance and miscuing his shot to send the ball flying high and wide from its target. It was Malaysia’s Indra Putra Mahayuddin who scored next, rising above the pack to head Norshahrul Talaha’s cross past the poorly-positioned Kawn Thamasatchanan. The goal erased the aggregate deficit just moments from the half time whistle.
Another chance fell to Thailand moments after the second half kicked off, with Kraisorn finding himself free at the back post to head the ball. But he was unable to backpedal quickly enough to get any direction on the attempted shot.
Malaysia went ahead on aggregate in the 58th minute after Norshahrul earned a free kick when he was barged down by Thaweekarn just outside the box. Rahim stepped up and beautifully curled the ball to the near post and beyond Thamasatchanan’s reach.
Charyl Chappuis levelled the playing field ten minutes from time, pouncing quickly on Farizal Marilas’s spilled save from a free kick. His score gave Thailand a hypothetical victory on away goals, but Chanathip Songkrasin restored the lead properly five minutes later when he received a pass from Kraisorn to launch a thunderous drive into the top corner of the net.
Malaysia ferociously sought the two need goals before the final whistle, with Norshahrul receiving the ball behind the defence and given the time to adjust his positioning. But his shot was fantastically saved by Thamasatchanan to ensure Thailand would lift the championship trophy.
Safiq Rahim’s brace from two dead balls earned him the consolation of being the tournament’s top scorer, bringing his tally to six goals above Vietnam’s Le Cong Vinh four. Thailand’s Chanathip Songkrasin also received the Player of the Tournament award along with US$10,000 in prize money.