MALAYSIA DENY CHAMP THAILAND SEMI-FINALS SPOT (12 December 2009)
VIENTIANE Ė A 2-1 win over Thailand in their final Group A match this evening at the Main Stadium was enough to give Malaysia a place in the semi-finals of the menís football event at the SEA Games.
The loss for Thailand meant that this is the first time since 1993 they will not make an appearance in the semi-finals in an event which they have dominated with eight gold medals since then.
But today, the Malaysians realised what was at stake where they needed to win the full points or they will be on the next flight home.
While for the Thais, they knew they were in the driverís seat going into the match where they only needed to pick up the one point for them to make the final four of the championship this year.
But it would seem that the Thais did not pay heed to head coach Steve Darbyís warning against playing it defensive and not taking any chances as this might backfired on them.
Malaysia created their first real chance of the game in the 28th minute of play when Norsharul Idlan Talaha played the ball short to Safiq Rahim but the latter just could not find the target.
Thailand finished the first half with their best chance of the afternoon in the 41st minute but striker Kirati Keawsombut missed the far post by inches.
With the score levelled at the half, Thailand came out stronger after the break and after putting some pressure on the Malaysians, their win of a free kick in the 52nd minute saw them scoring their first goal of the game.
Arthit Sunthornphit fired in from some 20metres out to beat Malaysian keeper Mohd Sharbinee Allawee to put the Thais on the advantage.
But their failure to sustain the pressure allowed Malaysia to be more daring and after a failed one-to-one from Norshahrul, the Malaysians finally carved out the equaliser in the 80th minute when Mohd Nashriq Baharom slammed home latching to a cross from substitute Mohamad Azmi Muslim.
The equalising goal did not seem to push Thailand into action and this prodded Malaysia to be more brazen and deep in injury time, they scored the winner off Ahmad Fakri Saarni to put themselves in the semi-finals of the championship where they will face hosts Laos on December 14.
In the meantime Vietnam took Group A after beating Cambodia 6-1 in the other match of the afternoon.
The Vietnamese, who are chasing their first ever gold medal in the event, scored the first goal of the game in the 11th minute through Phan Thanh Luong before Phan Thanh Hung scored the second goal of the afternoon in the 42nd minute to put them 2-0 in front at the half.
Two quick goals from Thang Luong (62nd minute) and Hoang Dinh Tung (65th minute) put Vietnam comfortably 4-0 ahead before Cambodia scored their one and only goal of the game in the 68th minute through Khim Borey.
Vietnam then completed the rout with two further goals from Dinh Tung (83rd minute) and Tran Manh Dung (89th minute) to set-up a semi-final clash against Singapore in two days.