Malaysia suffer SEA Games heartbreak, lose final to Thailand
Malaysia succumbed to a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to defending champions Thailand in the Southeast (SEA) Asian Games men's football final on Tuesday night after a first-half gaffe from goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli.
It was a cruel end to a gritty performance from the previously perfect Malaysians who were hoping to secure the gold medal before a packed home crowd at Shah Alam Stadium.
But the Malaysian Ultras were missing from the final in protest at the poor ticketing system that forced fans to queue for hours.
Ong Kim Swee made only one change from the semifinals, with Jafri Firdaus Chew replacing his injured Penang teammate S. Kumaahran.
In the fifth minute, Phittwat Sookjitthummakul fell under the heavy challenge from Adam Nor Azlin and saw his appeal for penalty turned down by referee Chen Hsin-chuan on a slippery Shah Alam pitch, due to a light drizzle.
Haziq did well to turn away Phittwat's header in the 35th minute, but the Malaysian goalkeeper made a big blunder to gift Thailand the lead four minutes later.
Sasalak Haiprakhon's inswinging corner seemed a routine catch for Haziq. But the young custodian somehow misjudged his clearance and punched the ball into his own net.
Thailand ended the first half buoyed by the goal, with the hosts needing to switch things up to chase the equaliser.
Malaysia came out with more intent with the second half, using the flanks to try to unsettle their opponents, who had conceded only once in the tournament.
But the hosts were almost undone through a blistering Thailand counter attack. It ended with Adam Nor Azlin at full stretch to divert Worachit Kanitsribumphen's goal-bound effort in the 52nd minute.
Ong introduced Daniel Amier and Syafiq Ahmad midway through the second half to add more energy, but the hosts still lacked penetration.
Syafiq saw a shot from the edge of the penalty box clear Nont Muangngam's goal before Syafiq drove a daisy cutter into the goalkeeper's arms.
Syazwan Andik had the crowd on their feet with a curling effort that just flew over, as the Malaysians camped out in the opposition's half.
Ong's players threw everything at Thailand in the dying stages, but it proved futile as Worrawoot Srimaka's men ensured a clean sheet to successfully defend their gold medal.
Their victory was a repeat of 2001, which saw the Thais edge Malaysia by the same score at the same venue.
But a sliver medal is still a good return for the under-22 side who overcame the odds last month to qualify for January's 2018 AFC U23 Championship.
Malaysia: Haziq Nadzli (GK), Matthew Davies, Adib Zainuddin (C), Safawi Rasid (Syafiq Ahmad 67'),N. Thanabalan, Muhamad Nor Azam Azih, Adam Nor Azlin, Jafri Firdaus Chew, Syazwan Andik,Syamer Kutty Abba (Daniel Amier 64'), Irfan Zakaria
Thailand: Nont Muangngam (GK), Sasalak Haiprakhon, Suriya Singmui, Worawut Namvech, Nopphon Phonkam, Chenrop Samphaodi (C), Phicha Au-Tra, Saringkan Peomsupa, Phittwat Sookjitthummakul, Rattanakorn Maikami, worachit Kanitsribumphen (Nattawut Sombatyotha 63')
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.