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Kuala Lumpur: Late goals steered Thailand and Malaysia into the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games men's football final with both winning their semi-final ties 1-0, thanks to Chenrop Samhaodi and N. Thanabalan respectively on Saturday. 

Tuesday's final, based on the thrilling semi-final ties, should be epic as Thailand will be seeking a 16th SEA Games men's football gold medal while Malaysia will be out to win their seventh title. 


Malaysia and Indonesia's rivalry is well documented and the Shah Alam Stadium was packed to the brim, with some 60,000 home fans in the stands.

Indonesia had 10,000 fans backing them and they would have been pleased to see their team not awed by the occasion, despite Malaysia having beaten them 3-0 in the Asian U-23 Qualifiers in Bangkok just several weeks ago.

The pressure was undoubtedly on Malaysia but Ong Kim Swee's men started brightly and could have taken the lead as early as the second minute when Safawi Rasid sent in a teasing cross from the left.

Thanabalan rose to meet the ball but it eluded him as Indonesia goalkeeper Satria Tama Hardiyanto safely collected.

Thanabalan, who had been one of Malaysia's stand-out players in the SEA Games with three goals to his name heading into the match, had another chance four minutes later but headed the ball from close range across the Indonesian goalmouth.

Indonesia had a look at goal in the 13th minute when Malaysian goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli, under pressure from a cross, could only punch the ball clear but luckily for him, there were Malaysian defenders behind to clear.

At the other end, Safawi's decision to go for goal from a free-kick in the 20th minute saw the ball soar over the crossbar and from there on, Indonesia began to dominate.

They had a half chance in the 23rd minute when Septian David played the ball across the Malaysian six-yard box but Ezra Harm Ruud Walian failed to connect.

Malaysia suffered a blow in the 25th minute when S. Kumaahran had to be taken off after a crunching tackle with Jafri Firdaus Chew, a two-goal hero in the 3-1 win over Laos in the final group match, coming on.

He almost made an instant impact, with the Indonesian keeper first tipping over an inswinging corner from Safawi before stretching full length to keep Jafri's goalbound shot from the second corner.

Despite Malaysia having more attempts at goal, Indonesia had held their own admirably and would have headed into the break the happier of the two teams.

With all still to play for, Malaysia started the second half aggressively while Indonesia were happy to hit on the break.

Evan Dimas Darmono should have done much better from one such break in the 63rd minute but failed to hit the target while for Malaysia, Jafri's glancing header off a Safawi corner a minute later just eluded the goalmouth.

Just as it began to look like extra time would be needed, Thanabalan turned saviour as he rose high to nod home Nor Azam Azih's corner from the left in the 87th minute and Malaysia sealed their place in the final.


Thailand captain Samhaodi scored deep in stoppage time as the defending champions beat Myanmar 1-0 in their semi-final played earlier on Saturday at the Selayang Stadium  .

Before the match kicked off, a minute of silence was observed in memory of Thailand Football Association national team officials Nattapong Somsinsawas and Kasidet Klaklangsmorn, who passed away on Friday after a car accident.

The semi-final was a repeat of the 2015 SEA Games final which Thailand emphatically won 3-0 but there was a feeling that this was a meeting of equals.

Myanmar had, prior to their 3-1 defeat to Malaysia in their final Group A match, impressed in the preliminary stage while Thailand had only shown their true capabilities in the second week of the tournament.

It was all business from the first whistle with Myanmar forcing a corner within the first 60 seconds, an early warning to Thailand that they meant business.

Thailand, however, were unfazed  and had their first look at goal in the seventh minute but M. Rattanakorn sent his free-kick from the left sailing over the Myanmar crossbar.

Myanmar responded with an effort of their own, with Yan Naing Oo forcing Nont Muangngam into a save, with the Thailand goalkeeper recovering to safely collect the subsequent cross.

The first real chance of the match fell Thailand's way in the 13th minute.

It was the result of an excellent passing move involving captain Samhaodi, who played the ball to S. Nattawut, who controlled it with his chest before lobbing it onto the path of Chaiyawat Buran but agonisingly, the ball hit the left upright before going out of play.

After a frantic opening 20 minutes, both teams slowed down as the afternoon sun took its toll.

Thailand, however, nearly closed the half on a high but a clear Chaiyawat failed to get his shot on target.

If Myanmar had started the first half on an aggressive note, it was Thailand's turn to do so when the match resumed and Chaiyawat would have been disappointed not to get his header on target after Myanmar goalkeeper Sann Sat Naing failed to cleanly field a cross.

Myanmar's response came in the 50th minute as Htike Htike Aung forced the Thailand goalkeeper to produce his best to save a free-kick from 30 yards out.

Seven minutes later, Myanmar's Than Paing had a great sight on goal but miscued his shot. 

As the clock ticked away, both sides adopted a cautious attitude but Thailand substitute H. Sasalak should have opened the scoring but could only find the side netting after pouncing on a loose ball in the 84th minute.

Thailand, however, kept pressing and deep in stoppage time, Suriya Singmui sent a cross into the Myanmar penalty area and Samhaodi rose high to nod home and steer his team into yet another SEA Games final.


Results

Semi-finals

August 26: Thailand 1-0 Myanmar, Malaysia 1-0 Indonesia 


Group A

August 14: Myanmar 2-0 Singapore, Malaysia 2-1 Brunei

August 16: Singapore 1-2 Malaysia, Myanmar 3-1 Laos

August 18: Laos 0-2 Singapore, Brunei 0-6 Myanmar

August 21: Brunei 0-3 Laos, Malaysia 3-1 Myanmar

August 23: Laos 1-2 Malaysia, Singapore 1-0 Brunei

Final Standings

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

Pts

Malaysia

4

4

0

0

10

4

12

Myanmar

4

3

0

1

12

9

9

Singapore

4

2

0

2

4

4

6

Laos

4

1

0

3

5

7

3

Brunei

4

0

0

4

1

12

0

 

Group B

Results

August 15: Indonesia 1-1 Thailand, Vietnam 4-0 Timor-Leste, Cambodia 0-2 Philippines

August 17: Vietnam 4-1 Cambodia, Indonesia 3-0 Philippines, Thailand 1-0 Timor-Leste

August 20: Timor-Leste 0-1 Indonesia, Philippines 0-4 Vietnam, Thailand 3-0 Cambodia

August 22: Philippines 0-2 Thailand, Cambodia 0-1 Timor-Leste, Vietnam 0-0 Indonesia

August 24: Indonesia 2-0 Cambodia, Thailand 3-0 Vietnam, Timor-Leste 1-2 Philippines

Final Standings

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

Pts

Thailand 

5

4

1

0

10

1

13

Indonesia

5

3

2

0

7

1

11

Vietnam 

5 3 1 1 12 4

10

Philippines 

5

2

0

3

4

10

6

Timor-Leste

5

1

0

4

2

8

3

Cambodia

5

0

0

5

1

12

0

 

Fixtures

August 29 - Final: Thailand v Malaysia; Bronze Playoff: Myanmar v Indonesia

Photos: MASOC/AFP