Three-time champions Thailand put one hand on the AFF Suzuki Cup with a 2-0 victory over Malaysia in a pulsating final at a packed Rajamangala Stadium on Wednesday.

A 72nd minute penalty from Charyl Chappuis and a strike from Krokriet Thawikan gave the youthful Thailand side a precious two-goal advantage ahead of the second leg at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, December 20.

Malaysia had frustrated Thailand for much of the game with tigerish tackling in midfield and smart defending but the pressure from almost non-stop attacks finally told in the closing 20 minutes.

Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang said that the champagne was still on ice.

“Our journey has not ended yet,” said Kiatisuk who won the ASEAN Football Championship three times as a player. “We must travel to Kuala Lumpur and bring back the champagne.

“If we want to win we must play well in Bukit Jalil.

“Today we changed tactics, guessing how they would play. They played like they did against Vietnam - it was an exciting game.”

Malaysian coach Dollah Salleh admitted that his defence had tired in the last 20 minutes.

“Our back line collapsed after 70 minutes and the penalty spoiled everything,” he said. “We will play 200 per cent at home and I have got a feeling we have a chance at Bukit Jalil.

“We will go all out for the win.”

Malaysia stuck with the team that started in the 4-2 semi-final, second leg victory over Vietnam while Thailand brought in striker Adisak Kraisorn, who was suspended for the 3-0 last-four win over the Philippines, for Prakit Deeprom.

In a lively start, Malaysia striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha sent a header straight at Thailand goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan from eight yards out and at the other end Mongkol Totsakrai shot wildly over the bar after a great build up.

Roared on by a raucous travelling support, Malaysia continued to press and Norshahrul had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the sixth minute when he was put through on goal but his snap shot was palmed away acrobatically by Kawin who was way off his line.

Chanathip “Messi J” Songkrasin was beginning to make his presence felt in midfield with dazzling footwork and quick breaks but on several occasions his final ball was disappointing.

However, he did set up Sarach Yooyen at the edge of the box in the 30th minute, Malaysia goalkeeper Farizal Marlias saving the midfielder’s low shot at the base of the post.

Thailand had the best chance of the half in the 42nd minute. Fadhli Shas failed to deal with a speculative ball over the top leaving Adisak one-on-one with Farizal but the striker, who scored twice against Malaysia in their group match, could not sort out his feet and the Malaysian defence rescued the situation.

The Thais piled on the pressure at the start of the second half with Mongkol and Adisak both firing over the bar after fast-paced attacks and Sarach shaved the post from long range.

Mongkol put Adisak through clear on goal in the 67th minute but he failed to test Farizal and after a quick counter-attack Amri Yahyah forced Kawin into a full length save.

The breakthrough came in the 72nd minute when Chappuis scored from the spot after Fadhli had tripped Adisak in the box.

Thailand added a second in the 86th minute after a lightning break, Krokriet slamming home his third goal of the tournament after Chanathip had found him in the middle with a slide rule pass.

The hosts flowed forward looking for a third and they had the crowd on their feet with a breathtaking spell of tiki-taka football that ended with Chappuis firing just past the post.


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