Defending AFF Championship winners Thailand were beaten 1-0 by Malaysia in Saturday’s semifinal first leg, with the Changsuek once again unable to conquer the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. A single Faisal Halim goal was enough for the Harimau Malaya to see off Thailand, however with the second leg around the corner, the two teams still has all to play for.
Despite being the most successful team in the AFF Championship, Thailand’s recent record against Malaysia was patchy at best – the Changsuek have not beaten the Harimau Malaya since December 2014, and they have not tasted victory at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in the past 40 years.
Eager to end their Bukit Jalil jinx sooner than later, Thailand started the match off brightly, with Pansa Hemviboon heading wide an Ekanit Panya cross after just five minutes. Four minutes later Malaysia goalkeeper Syihan Hazmi was called into action, beating Teerasil Dangda to a Sarach Yooyen cross and punching the ball away to safety.
Two minutes later the deadlock was broken, and it was Malaysia who drew first blood. Faisal, who was celebrating his 25th birthday on the day of the semifinal first leg, managed to get the better of Thailand goalkeeper Kittipong Phuthawchueak to score the opening goal for Malaysia.
Thailand kept on dominating possession and constantly bombarded the Malaysian defense with Teerasil Dangda spearheading the assault, however a back four consisting of V. Ruventhiran, Dominic Tan, Sharul Nazeem, and Quentin Cheng managed to soak up pressure after pressure.
Malaysia even got themselves a second goal in the 55th minute after Dominic managed to head in a Lee Tuck free-kick into Kittipong’s goal, however the goal was ruled out after Sabah FC defender Dominic was adjudged to have fouled Pansa in the goal’s buildup, even though in reality Dominic had ran into Kittipong when he headed the ball beyond the BG Pathum United goalkeeper’s reach.
While Malaysia held on for a 1-0 win, the slender victory meant that Thailand still has a chance of turning things around in January 10th’s second leg, to be played at the Thammasat Stadium in Pathum Thani.