KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s heroics in the on-going SEA Games were not good enough for them to win the prestigious gold medal in football.
An own goal by Malaysian goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli was enough to give Thailand the men’s football gold medal as Worrawoot Srimaka’s scored a 1-0 win in the final at the Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday.
It was Thailand’s 16th SEA Games gold medal in men’s football and sadly for Malaysia, the defeat was similar to their loss in the 2001 final – played at the same venue – as goalkeeper Kamarulzaman Hassan had then also deflected the winning goal into his own net.
The match kicked off under a heavy drizzle but both sets of fans made sure they were heard with loud renditions of their respective national anthems.
Backed by 70,000 fans, Malaysia earned a corner with just seconds on the clock but there was not to be a dream start as the corner failed to produce a clear chance.
At the other end, Thailand felt they should have had a penalty in the fifth minute when Adiz Zainuddin looked to have brought down S. Phitiwat but the referee thought otherwise.
Malaysia had a half chance in the 12th minute when Jafri Firdaus Chew flicked on a corner taken by Nor Azam Azih but N. Thanabalan, the match-winner against Indonesia in the semi-final, failed to get a touch to steer the ball into the net.
The heavy pitch made it difficult for free-flowing football but Thailand had a great chance in the 27th minute when Phicha Au-Tra’s header off a corner looked bound for the net only for Haziq to produce an outstanding save as he threw himself backwards to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Haziq again saved Malaysia in the 39th minute with some unorthodox goalkeeping when he deflected the goal-bound ball with his legs.
That led to a corner and for Haziq, a moment he will long remember.
The Malaysian looked in control as he jumped high to collect the ball floated in by H. Sasalak but the goalkeeper then opted to punch and to his, and Malaysia’s horror, it settled in the back of the net.
As both teams headed into the break, Malaysia had to come up with a gameplan to break the Thailand defence, a defence that had only conceded one goal in their six previous matches and that too through a penalty.
Try as they did in the second half, Malaysia failed to create clear chances and had it not been for Nor Azam’s last ditch defending in the 53rd and 61st minutes denying K. Worachit, Thailand’s victory margin could have been even wider.
In the end, they didn’t need a second goal and their ASEAN reign continues.