Late strikes from Swiss-born Charyl Chappuis and Chanathip "Messi Jay" Songkrasin broke Malaysian hearts as Thailand won their fourth Southeast Asian title in a dramatic AFF Suzuki Cup final on Saturday (Dec 20).
Hosts Malaysia fought back from a 2-0 first-leg deficit to lead 3-0 on the night, but the goals from Chappuis and Chanathip gave Thailand a 4-3 aggregate win and ended their 12-year drought in the competition.
It was a stunning finish from Thailand, who seemed to have run out of ideas after Safiq Rahim's double and Indra Putra's header put Malaysia in control. Chappuis scored a rebound from a free-kick on 82 minutes before Chanathip, dubbed "Messi Jay" because of his stature and dribbling skill, smashed home Thailand's second five minutes later.
Malaysia had got the start they wanted when striker Norshahrul Talaha went down too easily in the box and the referee pointed to the spot for a soft penalty. Safiq coolly sent goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan the wrong way to reduce the arrears to 2-1 on aggregate after Thailand's 2-0 win in Bangkok on Wednesday.
Thailand's Perapat Notechaiya hit the woodwork in an open first half before Indra Putra grabbed Malaysia's second with a downwards, far-post header on the stroke of half-time. The momentum was firmly with the hosts at a packed Bukit Jalil stadium and Safiq put them ahead 3-2 on aggregate with a sumptuous, dipping free-kick on 58 minutes.
But Chappuis got the crucial away goal for Thailand when Malaysian keeper Farizal Marlias palmed a free-kick into his path and he buried the rebound. And "Messi Jay" lived up to his nickname with an thumping left-footed strike from outside the area to make sure of Thailand's win.
Defeat was cruel for Malaysia, who appeared to have pulled off another great escape after they overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit in the semi-final against Vietnam by winning 4-2 in Hanoi. It also brings a sour end to the tournament for the 2010 winners after the semi-final first leg was marred by violence towards Vietnamese fans at Shah Alam stadium.