Malaysia were unable to turn a dominant display into a victory at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, as poor finishing and astute defending meant that the game ended goalless. Below are our writers’ thoughts on the match.
Gian Chansrichawla (SEA Editor): Tan Cheng Hoe is a fantastic coach and he’s got Malaysia playing really good football. They are absolutely formidable at the Bukit Jalil, and the style they play with is impressive. Many expected the possession-based system to play into Milovan Rajevac’s hands with his pressing and counter-attacking style, but the performance was way below the standard we have come to expect of Thailand under the Serbian’s stewardship. The first line of pressing had no energy, and the War Elephants had to spend most of their time on the back foot, cowering in their penalty area. They are going to need to show a lot more energy and invention in the second leg if they want to defend their AFF Cup crown.
Obb Deewajin (Thailand): It was a tough night for Thailand at the fully-packed Bukit Jalil National Stadium and Malaysia were the better side overall. Rajevac men had a sluggish start to the game, handing their hosts many opportunities which they should’ve converted. Safawi Rasid missed a handful on his own. Thailand had a few decent counter-attacking moments, usually from long balls over Malaysia’s pressing unit, but Farizal Marlias was equally great off his line – credit to Tan Cheng Hoe for utilising his “sweeper-keeper” ability. It was an average performance from the Thais, and maybe the substitutes should’ve influenced the game more as well, but a draw is an acceptable result. Hopefully, there will be an improvement in the second leg.
Aiman Nazirmuddin (Malaysia): Harimau Malaya showed an excellent fighting spirit despite only getting a draw against Thailand. Playing in front of 80,000 fans, Malaysia did their best by attacking from the first minute until the end of the game. Even Thailand’s coach, Milovan Rajevac, was impressed by the spirit and enthusiasm shown by the Malaysian players and fans. “We didn’t come here to play defensively,” he said, “but Malaysia played really well and ran a lot. They gave 120%”