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So Close, Yet So Far: Thailand Edge Malaysia 1-0

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SHAH ALAM – A calamitous error by Malaysia goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli handed Thailand a 1-0 win and the Sea Games men’s football gold medal in the final at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight.

A harmless cross into the Malaysian six-yard box did not look like it would cause trouble. But instead of catching the ball, Haziq elected to punch, only to misdirect it into goal six minutes before half-time.

With Malaysia unable to find any breakthrough, Thailand celebrated a 16th football gold medal and simultaneously crushed the hopes of over 80,000 people in attendance and millions more watching at home.

Malaysian fans will be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu as Haziq’s error echoed that of fellow goalkeeper Kamarulzaman Hassan 16 years ago.

Thailand also won that final 1-0 at the same venue after Kamarulzaman let a harmless cross slip through his legs and deflect into goal.

National Under-22 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee made only one change from the side which edged Indonesia 1-0 in the semi-finals, with striker Jafri Firdaus Chew coming in for the injured S. Kumaahran.

Malaysia had a let off after five minutes when Adib Zainuddin tripped Phitiwat Sookjitthummakul in the penalty area while goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli gave his team a scare when he dropped the ball from a corner in the 27th minute before it was cleared by Irfan Zakaria.

Then disaster struck. Haziq, under no pressure, punched the ball into his own net from a Thailand corner-kick in the 39th minute.

Malaysia responded with a long-range effort by Safawi Rasid which flew just wide but entered the half-time break a goal down.

Thailand nearly doubled their advantage seven minutes into second half but for a crucial clearance on the line by Adam Nor Azlin from Worachit Kanitsrimbapen’s goal-bound effort.

Adam again produced a block to deny Worachit on the hour-mark as Thailand began to press on the counter and with 12 minutes to go, Syazwan Andik Ishak’s curling strike only just cleared the crossbar in Malaysia’s best chance of the game. – NST

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