ANN/THE STAR – Two defensive lapses brought an end to Malaysia’s great run in the AFF Mitsubishi Cup as they fell 3-0 to Thailand in the semi-final second leg in Bangkok.
The defeat saw coach Kim Pan-gon’s boys beaten 3-1 on aggregate.
Despite going into the game with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg, Harimau Malaya were a bundle of nerves from the beginning, and the War Elephants took full advantage.
The home side started strong with intricate plays and movement but only had their first shot at goal in the 14th minute through captain Theerathon Bunmathan’s free-kick which goalkeeper Ahmad Syihan Hazmi easily smothered. Just four minutes later, they were 1-0 up, wiping out the one-goal deficit.
Theerathon’s brilliant cross from the left found striker Teerasil Dangda who headed home as the Malaysians were caught ball-watching.
Malaysia’s first shot on target came in the 36th minute when winger Norhakim Hassan unleashed a cross from the left, finding Darren Lok. The striker headed the ball straight at Thai goalkeeper Kampol Pathomakkakul.
Adisak Kraisorn replaced Teerasil in the second half but Thailand continued to pile the pressure on Malaysia.
The home side deservedly got their second goal when Bordin Phala found himself in acres of space in the 55th minute to finish off a simple pass from Ekanit Panya.
Four minutes after the goal, captain and striker Faisal Halim nearly pulled one back when he stole the ball from Theerathon and shot from 25 metres, but it went over the bar.
Thailand killed off the tie when Adisak turned supersub, finishing off a cross from another substitute Weerathep Pomphan in the 71st minute.
Alexandre Polking’s side qualified for their 10th AFF Cup final and will look to defend the title they won last year.