Thailand leave it late to see off brave Malaysia

Adisak Kraisorn struck in the 90th minute to help Thailand book their place in the semi-finals of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup with a 3-2 win over Malaysia on Wednesday.

Although it was the War Elephants who had started the brighter of the two teams at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Malaysia broke the deadlock in the 28th minute when Amri Yahyah latched onto Safiq Rahim’s layoff and clinically steered his shot past Kawin Thamsatchanan’s despairing dive.

The Thais did have their fair share of chances in the opening exchanges but were just unable to hit the target, with Kroekrit Thaweekarn, Adisorn Promrak and Chanathip Songkrasin all missing the mark from good positions.

Desperate to inject more energy into his side, Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang decided to bring on Adisak for the ineffective Kirati Keawsombat in the 41st minute, and the move proved to be a masterstroke just two minutes later.

After allowing the ball to find Charyl Chappuis with a clever dummy, the BEC Tero Sasana forward proceeded to charge into the box to meet his team-mate’s return pass, and showed great determination to get in ahead of Afif Amiruddin and stab a first-time shot into the back of the net.

Thailand continued to enjoy the dominant share of possession early on in the second half but were unable to carve out a clear-cut opening, and were largely restricted to long-range efforts that failed to trouble Khairul Fahmi in the opposition goal.

Against the run of play, Harimau Malaya reclaimed the advantage a minute after the hour mark when Safiq Rahim effortlessly skipped past two challenges and made his way into the area, before curling a low shot into the bottom corner.

It looked as though the Malaysians were on course for a famous victory but their goal did stun their opponents into action and in the 72nd minute, the scores were level once more as Chappuis struck his second goal of the tournament.

The chance looked to have been wasted as Chanathip opted not to go for a first-time shot after receiving possession from Adisak, but he did well to play the ball back into the path of Chappuis, who found the top corner with an emphatic drive.

Malaysia did come excruciatingly close to taking the lead for a third time with just three minutes remaining after Afif Amiruddin had flicked Safiq’s corner to Amri, only for his bullet header to be cleared off the line by Kroekrit Thaweekarn.

And they were made to pay for that miss in the 90th minute when Prakit Deeprom raced down the left and fired a cross into the box, where Adisak did brilliantly to take the ball into his stride with his first touch before lashing an unstoppable shot past Fahmi at the near post to win it for his side.

The result means Thailand are now assured of a top-two finish in Group B and are the second team through to the last four after Philippines, and they only need a point in Saturday’s final game against Myanmar to seal top spot.

Meanwhile, Harimau Malaya can still join them in the semis but must beat arch-rivals Singapore to have any chance of doing so.

Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi, Mahali Jasuli, Afif Amiruddin, Fadhli Shas, Zubir Azmi, Amri Yahyah, Shukor Adan (Hafiz Kamal 89’), Safiq Rahim, S. Kunanlan (Indra Putra Mahayuddin 46’), Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Abdul Manaf Mamat 76’).

Thailand: Kawin Thamsatchanan, Narubodin Weerawatnodom, Adisorn Promrak, Tanaboon Kesarat, Chayapat Kitpongsritada, Sarach Yooyen, Charyl Chappuis, Sarawut Masuk (Chainarong Tathong 55’, Prakit Deeprom 77’), Chanathip Songkrasin, Kroekrit Thaweekarn, Kirati Keawsombat (Adisak Kraisorn 41’).

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