Thailand cruise past 10-man Malaysia (Bangkok Post) (14/12/2012)

Thailand moved a step closer to ending a 10-year Asean title drought when they reached the AFF Suzuki Cup final by beating Malaysia 2-0 for a 3-1 aggregate win last night.

Having drawn 1-1 in the semi-final first leg in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Thailand advanced to the final thanks to goals from in-form striker Teerasil Dangda in the 60th minute and defender Teerathorn Bunmathan five minutes later in the return leg at a packed Supachalasai stadium.

The Thais will now meet Singapore in a two-legged final for the biggest prize in Southeast Asian football with the first leg in the island state on Wednesday and the second leg in Bangkok next Saturday.

It will be Thailand's sixth final in the Asean championship. Having won the title three times each, both sides are chasing a record fourth crown of the biennial championship which was launched in 1996.

Thailand and Singapore previously met only once in the final with the Lions winning 3-2 on aggregate in 2007.

The Thais claimed a record third crown in 2002 and the Lions have since matched the War Elephants' achievement.

Thailand also lost to Vietnam in the 2008 final and have never won the title since the final format was changed to a home-and-away competition in 2004.

At Supachalasai stadium, defending champions Malaysia, who must score to stand any chance of progressing, got off to a lively start and captain Safiq Rahim forced Thailand goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan to make a save in the opening minute.

But Thailand, whose coach Winfried Schaefer was banned from the bench after being sent off in Kuala Lumpur, soon found their rhythm and looked more dangerous.

Datsakorn Thonglao's pass sent Teerasil clear after 30 minutes but the striker's shot went wide.

Malaysia were reduced to 10 men two minutes before half-time when Mahamad Fadhli received a second yellow card following a clash with Datsakorn who was also booked.

Thailand went ahead after one hour when Teerasil intercepted a poor clearance by Amar Rohidan to score past Malaysia goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.

It was Teerasil's fifth goal of the 2012 tournament. He also scored the equaliser against the Tigers in the first leg.

Five minutes later, Teerathorn put the match beyond any doubts.

"We are very happy to reach the final," said Schaefer who watched his men from the stands. "We played well but lost concentration in the final moments. We should have scored three or five goals."

Against Singapore in the final, the German coach said: "They are a good team and have good spirit. All their 22 players are good."

As Thailand will have to play on artificial grass in the first leg, Schaefer said he would ask Thai Premier League club Bangkok Glass to allow his players to train on their artificial turf.

He was confident that Thailand would regain the crown.

"We have not won the title for 10 years and it's time for us to win back the title," he said.

Malaysia coach K Rajagobal said: "In the first half, we did well. But when our player was sent off and we conceded the first goal, it was very difficult for us to make a comeback."

He also criticised South Korean referee Lee Min-Hu for being too lenient with Thailand.

"If we had had the same number of players, the match would have been more exciting," he said.