MALAYSIA will take a slim advantage into the second leg of their AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup semi-final showdown with Thailand, after edging the defending champions 1-0 at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (7 January).
The all-important goal came in the 11th minute from their top striker Faisal Halim on his 25th birthday, and the hosts also had a goal disallowed in the second half, as Thailand slumped to their first AFF Cup defeat since 2016.
The match was played in a cloud of controversy over parts of the stadium being empty due to preparations for a upcoming concert by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, meaning that only 59,000 tickets were sold for the match, while 21,000 seats were left vacant.
Fans have appealed to Chou to postpone his concert, and the pop star responded that he was willing to delay his concert, as long as he can sing for his fans.
Priceless goal against run of play
Despite the controversy, the Bukit Jalil crowd was its usual loud and raucous self from the kick off, as Thailand began brightly, with Pansa Hemviboon almost giving them the lead in the fifth minute when he headed wide when unmarked.
Against the run of play, Malaysia took the lead in the 11th minute. A hopeful long cross by right-back Sharul Nazeem found V. Ruventhiran, who headed it across the goal for Faisal to poke it past Thai goalkeeper Kittipong Phoothawchuek for his fourth goal of the tournament.
The rest of the match saw Malaysia allowing Thailand to dominate possession, but always ready to hit them on the break.
The Tigers thought they had doubled their lead in the 55th minute when Dominic Tan bundled home a Lee Tuck free-kick, but the referee disallowed the goal for a foul in the build-up.
Thailand had shouts for a penalty waved away in the 84th minute, after Bordin Phala went down inside the box under the challenge of Nur Shamie, but Malaysia held on for the advantage ahead of second leg at the Thammasat Stadium in Bangkok on Tuesday.
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