KUALA LUMPUR — A late surge from Thailand gave them a fourth Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup triumph on Saturday night, after a thrilling second leg of the final in Kuala Lumpur.
Although coach Kiatisuk Senamuang’s men lost 2-3 before 90,000 fans at Bukit Jalil Stadium, they did enough to win the golden trophy 4-3 on aggregate after a 2-0 victory in Bangkok on Wednesday.
With Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak cheering the home team on, the Tigers stormed into a seventh minute lead when midfielder Safiq Rahim slotted home a penalty.
Things got even better during first-half stoppage time when Indra Putra nodded Norsharul Idlan Talaha’s cross past goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan. Their comeback was seemingly complete in the 58th minute, after Safiq curled in a glorious 25m free-kick to top the tournament’s scoring charts with six goals and give Malaysia a 3-2 aggregate lead.
Thailand looked incapable of getting that precious away goal until eight minutes from time when midfielder Charyl Chappuis pounced on a rebound after goalkeeper Farizal Marlias had parried a free-kick.
And in the 87th minute, attacking midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin, nicknamed “Messi J” by the Thai fans, showed a touch of the Barcelona superstar’s flair when he collected the ball outside the Tigers’ box and whipped a swerving screamer that gave the goalkeeper no chance.
With the 4-3 aggregate win, Kiatisuk became the first person to lift the AFF Cup as a player (in 1996, 2000 and 2002) and as a coach.
“I can’t believe today. It was a very exciting game and perfect and beautiful game,” the 41-year-old said. “I knew it would be tough against 90,000 fans but I said to my players to go home if they wanted to play for a 0-0 draw. Malaysia scored three goals and made it a difficult game but I am proud of my team.”
Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh congratulated the winners saying: “Congratulations to my players, they did very well and we almost got the cup.
“But 70 minutes as always cost us our chance. Our fitness was not good and we collapsed. We made mistake but this is football.”
VN receive Fair Play Award
Viet Nam have received the AFF Cup’s Fair-Play Award, the organising board announced on Saturday.
According to football experts, the team showed their dedication to football with a number of eye-catching attacking phases.
The co-host of the tournament was stopped at the semi-final round, after losing 4-5 to Malaysia in a two-leg game.
At the individual title, Malaysian midfielder Safiq Rahim won the Scorer Award with six goals in seven matches, while Thai striker Chanathip Songkrasin triumphed when receiving the Best Player award.