AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Semi-final Leg 2: The Top 5

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks the five best performers from the second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 semi-finals.

After 22 gruelling matches packed with action and drama aplenty, AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 is down to its final two.

In quite dramatic fashion on Wednesday, Malaysia were the first to advance to the decider on away goals after a 2-2 draw with Thailand, who could easily have emerged victorious but for a 96th-minute penalty miss by Adisak Kraisorn.

Thursday’s other semi-final saw Vietnam claim a 2-1 triumph over Philippines to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Here, FOX Sports Asia picks the five who shone the brightest in the second leg of the semi-finals.

1) Syahmi Safari (Malaysia)

Syahmi Safari’s evening may have ended on a sour note as he needlessly handled the ball inside the area to gift the Thais a penalty, which also saw him sent off for a second bookable offence.

That offence could also have so easily ended Malaysia’s campaign were it not for Adisak’s costly miss, but it should take little away from yet another impressive performance in what has been a breakout tournament.

Still only 20, Syahmi plays with a maturity beyond his years but also proved to be one for the big occasion, scoring one of the goals of the tournament with a stunning 20-yard piledriver to make it 1-1.

2) Thitipan Puangchan (Thailand)

Having had to bide his time before finally being able to represent the senior team at an international tournament, Thitipan Puangchan would have been disappointed at Thailand’s semi-final elimination but he should be proud of his own achievements.

The Bangkok Glass midfielder was a constant driving force in the middle of the park, providing equal measures of defensive grit and attacking creativity.

Considering his central-midfield partner Tanaboon Kesarat strangely had a lacklustre campaign and was largely a passenger, Thitipan effectively had to do double the work but still found a way to shine.

3) Kevin Ingreso (Philippines)

It was not to be for Philippines in the end as they fell in the semi-finals for the fouth time in the past five editions of the Suzuki Cup, although it certainly was not for lack of trying.

Considering he initially started the tournament on the bench as Manny Ott and John-Patrick Strauss were given the nod in the heart of midfield, Kevin Ingreso deserves credit for how he fitted in seamlessly after being thrown into the fray.

Always tidy with his distribution and dangerous with his set-piece deliveries, Ingreso was also not afraid to get stuck in and gave his direct Vietnam opponents a real fight.

4) Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)

Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo has hardly taken a wrong step since his appointment last year.

Nonetheless, based on Nguyen Quang Hai’s past three displays, Park should – for now at least – stop experimenting with deploying his star forward as a central midfielder.

Quang Hai has been in superb form since returning to the attacking third and looked the likeliest source of a Vietnam goal on Thursday, which he duly delivered by opening the scoring in the 83rd minute with a clever run to meet Phan Van Duc’s slide-rule pass with a neat finish.

5) Tan Cheng Hoe (Malaysia)

For the second consecutive match round, Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe is a shoo-in after masterminding his side’s elimination of reigning champions Thailand.

Having controlled proceedings in the first leg, Harimau Malaya adopted a different approach playing away at the Rajamangala Stadium and, despite falling behind twice, did not take long at all to respond on both occasions.

Tan has really found a way to get the best out of his players and also deserves credit for some of his squad selections, with back-up left-back Nazirul Naim coming in for the injured Syazwan Andik and having no problems producing a starring display.

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