Thailand claim gold after downing Malaysia

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Thailand won gold at the 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games after claiming a 1-0 win over Malaysia in Tuesday evening’s final at the Shah Alam Stadium.

The Thais benefitted from a horrendous own-goal by opposition goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli six minutes before halftime, which proved to be the difference in a keenly-contested encounter.

It was a sorry way for Malaysia’s campaign to end given the way they had exceeded expectations to reach the final, even given their status as tournament hosts.

Nonetheless, few could argue that Thailand were not worthy champions as they peaked at the right time following a sluggish start to retain the gold they won in 2015, also claiming a record 16th crown in the process.

Given what was at stake in Tuesday’s clash, it was no surprise that both teams started tentatively, with neither willing to take any risks that could prove costly.

It was the Thais who carved out the first real chance in the 16th minute when captain Chenrop Samphaodi fired narrowly wide after being picked out by Worachit Kanitsribampen.

Picha U-Tra was next to threaten the Malaysian goal 11 minutes later when he met Sasalak Haiprakhon’s corner at the near post with a glancing header, only to see Haziq tip it over with a fantastic reflex save.

But six minutes before the break, what seemed like it could be a promising evening for Haziq descended into a nightmare in an instant.

There was hardly any danger when Sasalak whipped another corner into the box but, under no pressure, the goalkeeper inexplicably punched the ball into his own net.

Despite the obvious blow of falling behind to a side that had only conceded once all tournament long, Malaysia came out for the second half showing plenty of endeavour in a bid to get back into the contest.

Thailand continued to look the likelier of the two sides to score next and Worachit had two excellent chances in an eight-minute spell when he found time and space inside the box.

On both occasions, however, Adam Nor Azlin showed great awareness to race back in time and block both efforts that were destined for the back of the net.

As the game entered its closing stages, Malaysia started to show greater urgency but were just unable to break down the Thais, who showed excellent discipline and organisation despite not being as entertaining a team as previous generations.

Syazwan Andik came the closest to grabbing the equaliser for the hosts when he latched onto Syafiq Ahmad’s flick-on header and cut onto his right foot, before lashing a ferocious drive that was mere inches over the bar.

That proved to be the last meaningful action as Thailand proceeded to defend stoutly for the remainder of the contest, ending their opponents’ brave title challenge but also successfully completing their own to be deserving winners.

MALAYSIA: Haziq Nadzli, Adib Zainuddin, Irfan Zakaria, Adam Nor Azlin, Matthew Davies, Syamer Kutty Abba (Danial Amier Norisham 65’), Nor Azam Azih, Syazwan Andik, N. Thanabalan, Safawi Rasid (Syafiq Ahmad 68’), Jafri Firdaus Chew (Akhyar Rashid 79’).

THAILAND: Nont Muangngam, Rattanakorn Maikami, Saringkarn Promsupa, Worawut Namvech, Suriya Singmui, Nopphon Ponkam (Shinniphat Lee-Oh 74’), Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul, Picha U-Tra (Chaiyawat Buran 84’), Worachit Kanitsribampen (Nattawut Sombatyotha 64’), Sasalak Haiprakhon, Chenrop Samphaodi.