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Kuala Lumpur: With the 2016 edition of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship now underway, takes a walk down memory lane with a look at some of the most memorable and dramatic encounters in the history of Southeast Asia’s regional showpiece.

1) Semi-final: November 19 2000. Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok.

Vietnam 2 (Nguyen Hong Son 45, Vu Cong Tuyen 90)
Indonesia 3 (Genduit Doni Cristiawan 39, 120, Matheus Nurdiantara 75)
(after extra time)

Vietnam excelled in the first two editions of the AFF Championship without winning the title. A third place finish in the inaugural 1996 tournament was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Singapore in the final on home soil two years later. The Golden Stars, under Austrian Alfred Riedl, arrived in Thailand in 2000 hoping the pattern of improvement would continue and bring them their first ever international trophy.

They performed strongly to top Group A, racking up ten points and 12 goals in four matches, with Vu Cong Tuyen and Le Huynh Duc getting on the scoresheet three times each, while Indonesia finished second in Group B. Under the rules of early AFF Championship tournaments, Vietnam and Indonesia’s semi-final in Bangkok had to be decided in 90 or 120 minutes, rather than over two-legs. As it transpired, each and every one of those minutes was required to produce a winner.

Indonesia took the lead after 39 minutes when Genduit Cristiawan punished Vietnam goalkeeper Ming Quang’s mistake of misreading the flight of a cross from the left by heading into a virtually empty net, but their defence was to be exposed just before half-time when a sharp Vietnam counter attack was emphatically finished off by Nguyen Hong Son.

Indonesia’s Nurdintara put his country back in front after 75 minutes when he had the skill and composure to steer the ball into the net after it ricocheted off the crossbar from Cristiawan’s thunderous long-range effort. However, Vietnam weren’t finished yet. Once again they scored in injury time – on this occasion through tournament star Cong Tuyen – to force extra-time.

Then, in the 121st minute and with a nerve-shredding penalty shootout just seconds away, Cristiawan overcame a poor first touch to get the ball under control and fire home after Quang was caught out of position. The goal, his fifth of the tournament, gave Indonesia a memorable win and assured them of a spot in their maiden AFF Championship Final.

2) Semi-final Second Leg: January 2 2005, National Stadium, Singapore

Singapore 4 (Zaw Lynn Tun 74 (o.g.), Alam Shah 94, 96, Casmir 108)
Myanmar 2 (Min 15, Moe 50)
(Singapore wins 8-5 on aggregate, after extra-time.)

Singapore and Myanmar had already produced a classic just four days earlier when the Lions prevailed 4-3 in Kuala Lumpur, but the second leg in Singapore, played on a severely waterlogged pitch, proved to be one of the most dramatic AFF Championship matches ever.

Holding a crucial one goal advantage, and playing in front of 30,000 home fans, Singapore were expected to cruise to the final, but Myanmar took a surprise lead on the night to level the tie at 4-4 through Soe Myat Min’s low and hard 18-yard-strike after 15 minutes. It was Min’s third goal in a week against Singapore and his fifth of the tournament.

Things got worse for Singapore immediately after half-time when Aung Kyaw Moe’s speculative shot crawled across the muddy surface and into the bottom corner of the net. Myanmar were now in the driver’s seat with a 5-4 aggregate lead, and only forty minutes away from a first-ever AFF Championship Final, but their night was about to unravel spectacularly.

It began when Yan Paing was sent off for a second bookable offence. Shortly after Singapore equalised when Noh Alam Shah’s header was unwittingly steered in by Myanmar defender Zaw Lynn Tun. After all Myanmar’s hard work, the tie was now level on aggregate, and although Singapore’s four away goals gave them no advantage under the tournament’s rules, their extra man certainly did.

With Singapore taking control, things went from bad to worse for Lynn Tunn, and Myanmar, when he too was sent off for a blatant foul in the penalty area on 86 minutes. Moe Kyaw Thu extraordinarily became the third Myanmar player to see red when he was also then sent off for his overtly demonstrative reaction to the Japanese referee’s decision. Singapore only needed to convert the ensuing penalty to secure victory, but Indra Sahdan Daud hit the post from 12 yards, and the teams were forced to play 30 more minutes.

Unsurprisingly, with just eight men on the pitch, Myanmar were overrun in the extra period, as Singapore showed no mercy to their shorthanded opponents by racking up another three goals. Mynamar’s frustrations boiled over as yet more dangerous tackles flew in long after the match was over as a contest, culminating in reserve goalkeeper Tun Tun Lin being sent off for violent conduct.

Singapore prevailed 8-5 on aggregate in a tie of infinite talking points and went on to beat Indonesia 5-2 over two legs in the final. It was Myanmar’s only ever appearance in the semi-finals.

3) Semi-final Second Leg: January 3 2005, Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia 1 (Khalid 28)
Indonesia 4 (Kurniawan 59, Charis 74, Ilham 77, Boaz 84)
(Indonesia wins 5-3 on aggregate)

Just 24 hours on from the tempestuous Singapore-Myanmar match, Malaysia met their great rivals Indonesia at a full and atmospheric Bukit Jalil National Stadium. Holding a 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Jakarta, Harimau Malaysia were warm favourites and started the stronger of the two teams but Mohamed Khalid Jamlus wasted two excellent opportunities to extend their advantage.

Indonesia continued to present Khalid with chances, though, and were punished after 28 minutes when he put the hosts 3-1 up on aggregate. With a two-goal advantage and a crowd of over 80,000 roaring them on, it appeared Malaysia were on course for a AFF Championship final showdown with Singapore.

But Indonesia coach Peter Withe’s decision ten minutes into the second half to bring on forward Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto – who had scored in the first leg, but started this match on the bench - made an instant impact and gave Indonesia hope. Just four minutes after coming on, Kurniawan found himself on the end of a long ball and through on goal. His unerring finish from 15 yards flew across the goalkeeper, and it was 3-2 on aggregate.

In the 74th minute Charis Yulianto leveled the tie when he steered home a header after being left totally unmarked from a corner, and just four minutes later Indonesia sensationally took the lead when Ilham Jaya Kesuma poked home his seventh goal of the tournament and wheeled away to a jubilant throng of travelling Indonesia fans. Just twenty minutes after holding a two goal lead in a home semi-final, Malaysia were behind.

Boaz Solossa completed a famous win when he brilliantly rounded the goalkeeper and slid the ball into the empty night on 84 minutes. It was glory for Indonesia, who were into their third consecutive AFF Championship Final, while Malaysia was left to rue a painful loss and wonder what might have been.

4) Final Second leg: December 28 2008, My Dinh National Stadium, Hanoi

Vietnam 1 (Le Cong Vinh 90+4)
Thailand 1 (Teerasil 21)
(Vietnam wins 3-2 on aggregate)

Thailand had persistently been a thorn in Vietnam’s side. Since Vietnam eliminated the War Elephants from the tournament in 1998, Thailand had gone on a nine-match unbeaten run against them, including a 4-0 thumping in the 2002 AFF Championship semi-final, and a 2-0 win over two legs at the same stage of the 2007 tournament.

Thailand extended their unbeaten run against the Golden Stars to ten matches by racking up another 2-0 win in their Group Stage meeting of the 2008 AFF Championship, but Vietnam’s impressive wins over Malaysia, Laos and Singapore were enough to secure their first appearance in an AFF Championship final since hosting the tournament in 1998.

Under the tutelage of Portuguese boss Henrique Calisto – in his second spell in charge – Vietnam showed their killer instinct in the first leg of the final in Bangkok. Peter Reid’s Thailand had dominated the match, creating at least half a dozen excellent chances to score, but Vietnam’s ruthless edge in front of goal saw them take a 2-0 lead into half-time. Thailand pulled a goal back in the second half, but Vietnam went into the second leg, in front of 40,000 in Hanoi, with a priceless one-goal advantage.

A draw would have been enough for Vietnam to claim their first ASEAN title, but Thailand weren’t going to make life easy for their hosts and, as in the first leg, began the match on the front foot. After 21 minutes Teerasil Dangda’s run into the penalty area saw him arrive just in time to head his country into a 1-0 lead on the night, and level the tie at 2-2 on aggregate. All of a sudden, with the Thais in the ascendancy and more than 70 minutes to play, Vietnam’s maiden AFF Championship title was shrouded in doubt.

Vietnam duly created the better of the chances before and after half-time, with star striker Le Cong Vinh fluffing his lines on a number of occasions as they somehow failed to find the net. Thailand themselves came close to breaking the deadlock in a see-sawing encounter, but with the aggregate score locked at 2-2, and with no away goals rule in place, it appeared the 2008 final would be decided in extra-time, until Vietnam were awarded a free-kick some 40 yards from goal in the fourth minute of added time.

Vietnamese captain Nguyen Minh Phuong drilled the ball into a crowded penalty area where, again, Le Cong Vinh was lurking. The striker got just enough contact on the ball to steer it into the far corner of the net, sparking delirium amongst the 40,000 strong crowd. At just 22 years of age, Cong Vinh had scored his 21st international goal - his fourth of the tournament - to secure Vietnam’s first ever major honour, and light the fuse for scenes of celebration which had rarely been seen in the tournament’s history.

5) Final second leg, December 20 2014, Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia 3 (Safiq 7(p), 58, Putra 45+2)
Thailand 2 (Charyl 82, Chanathip 87)
(Thailand wins 4-3 on aggregate)

Thailand, along with Singapore, are the most successful team in AFF Championship history with four titles but, with the possible exception of their 2002 triumph in Jakarta, none of their wins have come in more dramatic circumstances than the one they captured in 2014.

Thailand had topped their group, winning all three matches and producing impressive performances against Singapore and Malaysia along the way, before dispatching the Philippines 3-0 in the semi-final. Their opponents, Meanwhile, Malaysia recovered from a first leg semi-final defeat at home to Vietnam to pile on four first half goals in Hanoi and take their place in the title shootout. Having broken their AFF Championship duck in 2010, Malaysia were eying a second ASEAN title in three tournaments, but endured a difficult first leg in Bangkok.

Thailand were warm favourites, and showed why immediately, by controlling the match and creating chances. The Malaysians held firm until they fell behind when Thailand were awarded a penalty which was converted by Swiss-born Charyl Chappuis in the 72nd minute. A second goal, scored by Kroekrit Thaweekarn with just two minutes remaining, gave Malaysia a mountain to climb going into the return leg.

The second leg, played at the imposing Bukit Jalil National Stadium, required something of a Malaysian miracle, but the home team got off to a dream start when they were awarded a penalty after just six minutes. Safiq Rahim calmly passed the ball into the bottom corner of the net and the deficit was halved.

The Malaysians kept pushing, and levelled the tie in the dying seconds of the first half when Indra Putra Mahayuddin arrived unnoticed in the Thai penalty area to head the ball home. It was 2-0 on the night, 2-2 on aggregate, and the Malaysian comeback was well and truly on. It became seemingly complete when Safiq added his second, this time a superb free-kick, in the 58th minute, leaving the hosts just thirty minutes away from AFF Championship glory but – as has often been the case in this tournament – drama was still to come.

In the 82nd minute, Malaysia conceded a free-kick of their own in a dangerous area. Sarach Yooyen’s strike was acrobatically saved, but the rebound fell to Chappuis, who tucked the ball away and gave Thailand a vital away goal - that rule having been added to the tournament in 2010 – much to the delight of coach Kiatisuk Senamuang.

With time running out, and Malaysia desperately looking for a decisive fourth goal, Thailand scored again. Tournament star Chanathip Songkrasin’s unstoppable thunderbolt from 20 yards gave the goalkeeper little chance and put the game beyond doubt. Thailand, having thrown away such a position of dominance, had won the final after all.

Photos: Lagardère Sports