Late Malaysia winner stuns Thailand (09/11/2011)

Thailand are in danger of elimination after losing 2-1 to Malaysia in their opening match at the 26th SEA Games yesterday.

Bakhtiar Baddrol opened the scoring for Malaysia after 24 minutes and Ramlan Izzaq Faris hit the winner for the defending champions in the 85th minute after Natarid Thammroddodpon fired an equaliser for the Thais five minutes earlier.

In fact, Thailand played badly in every department and could have lost by a much bigger had Malaysia's forwards been sharper in the Group A encounter at the Gelora Bung Karno (Senayan) stadium.

Malaysia also defeated the Thais 2-1 in the last group game at the 2009 Games in Laos as the eight-time defending champions Thailand were eliminated in the first round for the first time for decades.

If Thailand fail to get past the group stage in Indonesia, it will be the first time in Games history that they suffer two consecutive early exits.

And that is not impossible as they still have to play hosts Indonesia and Singapore, as well as minnows Cambodia.

"I don't know what happened to my players. They played much below their standard," Thailand coach Prapol Pongpanich said after yesterday's match.

Thailand manager Kasem Jariyawatwong chose to look on the bright side saying that "we still have three matches to play."

But he admitted that getting past the first round was not easy. "We have no choice, we have to win the remaining three games," he said.

Kasem said Thailand had to change their tactics after falling behind and when they got an equaliser he thought the momentum was on Thailand's side but it turned out to be the other way round.

Thailand's defenders, particularly Sutjarit Jantakol and Chalemsak Kaewsooktae, were a weak link while goalkeeper Ukrit Wongmeema looked shaky.

The Thais got off to a lively start but soon ran out of sorts as the Malaysians looked more dangerous and tormented the Thai rearguard throughout the match.

A large number of Thai fans at home were infuriated by the poor performance and heavily criticised the team on websites and in radio programmes.

"It would be better for you to return home to help the flood victims," said a fan in a radio programme.

"You should stop talking about winning the title if you could only play like this," a fan wrote on a website.

In Group A, Malaysia and Singapore have four points each from two games. Indonesia have three points from one match, while Thailand and Cambodia are still looking for their first point.

The top two teams from each of the two groups advance to the semi-finals.

Thailand play Cambodia tomorrow at 5pm.

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