Thailand hold Malaysia in pulsating draw
Teerasil Dangda buried a cannonball late header on Sunday to earn Thailand a pulsating 1-1 draw with defending champions Malaysia in the first leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final in Kuala Lumpur.
The Thai striker, rising near the penalty spot, powerfully met a cross and planted it into the top right corner in the 79th minute, cancelling out Norshahrul Idlan Talaha's well-directed header early in the second half.
Thailand's German coach Winfried Schaefer was sent to the stands after an altercation with the referee, and Malaysia's Safee Sali saw a point-blank header saved in the dying minutes in a night of high excitement at Bukit Jalil stadium.
Thailand were favourites heading into the two-legged semi, after winning all their group games, and they will now take the advantage of an away goal into Thursday's return fixture in the Southeast Asian championship.
With midfield dynamo Datsakorn Thonglao back in the team after a groin injury, the visitors overcame a nervy start to create the better chances in the first half, on a heavy pitch that had been saturated by an earlier downpour.
Adul Lahsoh's curling effort shot from 25 yards in the 11th minute was well stopped by Malaysia goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, while Phichitpoing Choeichiu shot narrowly wide from distance in the 27th minute.
Malaysia's best opportunity of the first half fell to skipper Safiq Rahim, who nearly caught out Kawin Thammasatchanan with a swerving free-kick from the left flank in the 34th minute.
But three minutes into the second half, Norshahrul raised the roof at the packed stadium when he met Mahalli's cross at the near post and steered it into the far bottom corner to put the home side ahead.
The Thais turned up the heat and bossed possession for much of the second half, with Apipoo Suntornpanavej's fierce drive forcing Farizal into an excellent save in the 67th minute.
Thailand's pressure was finally rewarded as Piyaphon Buntao's measured cross from the right found Teerasil near the penalty spot, and the centre forward rose above the Malaysian defence to head into the top corner of the net.
Malaysia had a golden chance to win the match right at the end as substitute Safee ghosted in to meet Safiq's free-kick with a bullet header, but Kawin did brilliantly to tip it over his crossbar.
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