Malaysia qualifies for Suzuki Cup final after nail-biting draw

Malaysia into Suzuki Cup final after nail-biting draw (AFP pic)

BANGKOK: Malaysia moved into the final of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup on Wednesday in dramatic fashion, eliminating defending champions Thailand courtesy of away goals after drawing the second leg of the semifinal in Bangkok 2-2.

Four days after a first-leg goalless draw in Kuala Lumpur, a 95th minute penalty miss from Thailand striker Adisak Kraisorn ensured that Norshahrul Idlan Talaha’s second-half strike was enough to end Thailand’s hopes of a third successive Southeast Asian title.

It was a tense night at the Rajamangala Stadium but the majority of the 40,000 fans were celebrating as Thailand broke the deadlock after 21 minutes in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.

Goalkeeper Farizal Marlias saved Thitipan Puangchan’s header but his clearance bounced off defender Irfan Zakaria and rolled into the net.

The away supporters were soon celebrating as Malaysia drew level before the half-hour.

Syahmi Safari was given space outside the area and the 20-year-old back found the top corner with a looping drive to record his first international goal.

Three minutes after the hour, the home fans were in full voice once again. A left-sided free-kick caused havoc in the Malaysian area and Pansa Hemviboon was there to head home from close range.

With 20 minutes remaining, Norshahrul collected the ball in the area with his back to goal to turn and shoot into the far corner.

Deep into injury time, Syahmi handled a high ball in the area and, red-carded, watched from the sidelines as Adisak — top scorer in the tournament so far with eight goals — ballooned the ball over the bar.

Malaysia will face the winner of the other semifinal, with Vietnam taking a 2-1 advantage over the Philippines back to Hanoi for the second leg on Thursday.