KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia failed to take advantage of playing on their own turf when they only managed to draw 1-1 against Thailand in the semi-final first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, here, Sunday night.
The result also means that a tougher task awaits Datuk K.Rajagobal’s boys in the semi-final second leg on Dec 13 at Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
The defending champions started strong in the first half with continuous attacks on Thailand’s defence, but the strikers failed to find the net.
Instead, Thailand almost had their first goal in the 19th minute but Phichitphong Choeichiu’s powerful shot from outside the penalty box was saved by keeper Mohd Farizal Marlias.
Startled, Harimau Malaya re-arranged their attacks but Mohd Bunyamin Omar’s cross in the 20th minute failed to be headed in by Azammuddin Mohd Akil.
Malaysia had their chance to lead in the 32nd minute but Baddrol Bakthiar’s effort was saved by the Thai keeper.
A minute later, Safiq Rahim also posed a threat to the opponent’s goal with a free kick, but it was also saved by Kawin Thamsatchanan, leaving the score at 0-0 by end of the first half.
Three minutes into the second half, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha found his rhythm when he headed in the first goal for Harimau Malaya following a cross from Mahali Jasuli.
Norshahrul, the most valuable player, almost scored another goal in the 63rd minute after dribbling through the Thai defence, but his shot from inside the box slightly went off the mark.
Thailand almost had the equaliser in the 66th minute when the shot made by substitute player Apipoo Suntornpanavej was parried by Mohd Farizal.
The visitors finally managed to equalise in the 79th minute through their striker Teerasil Dangda, who headed in the ball just out of Mohd Farizal’s reach.
Thailand’s coach Winfried Anton Schafer’s frequent protests against the referee’s decisions finally caused him to be ordered to leave the field in the 81st minute.
Safee Sali who replaced Amar Rohidan almost put Malaysia back in front in the 87th minute, but his header was pushed away by the Thai goalkeeper.
The 1-1 score remained unchanged until the final whistle.– Bernama