AFF Suzuki Cup 2018: Wasteful Malaysia held by Thailand

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Malaysia will be left kicking themselves for their profligacy after being held to a 0-0 draw by Thailand in the first leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 semi-final on Saturday.

In front of gargantuan 87,545 crowd at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Harimau Malaya rose to the occasion and dominated proceedings from start to finish despite entering the match as underdogs against the defending champions.

However, some wasteful finishing from the hosts – who enjoyed 63.2 per cent possession and produced 23 attempts at goal compared to Thailand’s five – meant they were unable to claim what would have been a deserving lead ahead of next Wednesday’s tricky return encounter at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium.

The first chance for Malaysia came as early as the fifth minute when pinball inside the opposition area eventually saw the ball break to Safawi Rasid, who could only wastefully blazed over on his weaker right foot.

Safawi had another chance in the 20th minute when he was released by a cheeky backheel from Mohamadou Sumareh and managed to get his shot on target on this occasion, only for it to be kept out by a smart save from Chatchai Budprom.

Six minutes later, it was Sumareh’s turn to be presented with a golden opportunity after being picked out completely unmarked by Zaquan Adha inside the area, only for him to screw his shot wide with only Chatchai to beat.

Akram Mahinan playing with his usual determination.

Given they were being completely outplayed, Thailand were left to resort to counterattacks but, with Adisak Kraisorn, Supachai Jaided and Nurul Sriyankem up forward, they were always going to be dangerous.

They could have carved out a good chance of their own six minutes after the half-hour mark when Nurul looked to race onto a brilliant through-pass from Thitipan Puangchan, but Farizal Marlias read the danger well and raced off his line to deal with the threat.

Malaysia continued to enjoy the better of the proceedings in the second half and Norshahrul came close in the 66th minute.

A brilliant attack pieced together saw him chest a right-wing delivery into the path of Zaquan and then run into space to return his strike partner’s return pass.

But, with only Chatchai to beat albeit from an acute angle, the experienced forward blazed over.

Sanrawat Dechmitr was one of the few bright sparks for Thailand.

As the game wore on, Thailand looked increasingly content to hold out for the draw and take the draw and clean sheet back to Bangkok for the second leg.

The Malaysians did have one final chance in the first minute of injury-time and, fittingly, it fell to Safawi but the usually-deadly winger just had an evening to forget, as he spurned the opening by wildly lashing his shot into the stands.

MALAYSIA: Farizal Marlias, Syahmi Safari, Aidil Zafuan, Shahrul Saad, Syazwan Andik (Nazirul Naim 72’), Mohamadou Sumareh (Ahmad Hazwan Bakri 64’), Syamer Kutty Abba, Akram Mahinan, Safawi Rasid, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Zaquan Adha (Shahrel Fikri Fauzi 81’).

THAILAND: Chatchai Budprom, Mika Chunuonsee, Chalermpong Kerdkaew, Pansa Hemviboon, Korrakod Wiriyaudomsiri, Thitipan Puangchan, Tanaboon Kesarat, Nurul Sriyankem (Pakorn Prempak 59’), Sanrawat Dechmitr, Supachai Jaided (Pokklaw Anan 46’), Adisak Kraisorn (Chananan Pombuppha 90’).