SINGAPORE: Mohd Safiq Rahim scored a peach of a solo goal for Malaysia but it still came to nothing against Thailand.
On Wednesday, at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Malaysia twice took the lead but still lost 3-2 to a youthful Thai side in their penultimate AFF Suzuki Cup Group B match.
Malaysia had gone ahead through Mohd Amri Yahyah in the 28th minute but Thailand hit back through substitute Adisak Kraisorn two minutes from the break.
Safiq then jinked past the Thai defenders to score a brilliant second goal at the hour mark but that too was cancelled out by the Thais, with Charyl Chappuis finding the net in the 73rd minute.
The start of the match was delayed by two-and-a-half hours when lightning struck the stadium’s automated lightning system.
When the match finally got under way, national coach Dollah Salleh did the expected, bringing in midfielder Safiq for the suspended Gary Steven Robbat and striker Mohd Safee Sali for winger Azzamuddin Mohd Akil up front.
They did play better than in the goalless draw against Myanmar on Sunday but were still picked apart by the youthful and speedy Thais.
Dollah, who praised his men for putting up a gallant fight, is not ready to throw in the towel yet.
“Our game plan worked well against the Thais but a lack of concentration towards the end cost us the points,” Dollah told the post-match press conference.
“We are not finished yet ... we have one more match to play and we still have a chance to reach the semi-finals.”
His Thai counterpart, Kiatisuk Senamuang admitted that they found it harder to beat Malaysia (than Singapore on Sunday).
“We respect all our opponents but Malaysia gave us a harder time ... I’m happy to get the win,” said Kiatisuk.
“We have qualified for the semi-finals and will try to wrap up our campaign with a win over Myanmar in our last group match (on Saturday).”
The Thais top the table with six points after two matches to book their berth in the semi-final. Malaysia must now beat hosts Singapore in their final match on Sunday to stand a chance to advance to the last four.
Singapore beat Myanmar 4-2 in the other Group B match at the National Stadium in Kallang. The hosts are now second in the standings with three points, followed by Malaysia and Myanmar on one point each.
Shaiful Esah (16th, 76th) and Hariss Harun (35th, 42nd) scored a brace each for Singapore while Myanmar came back strongly after the breather with goals from Kyaw Zayar Win (55th) and Kyaw Ko Ko (62nd).
by K. Rajan - The Star