SHAH ALAM – The jinx of not winning the ‘mother of all gold medals’ in the SEA Games as the host came back to haunt when Thailand once again gate crashed Malaysia’s celebrations of having won 140 gold medals here last night.
The highly anticipated final turned into somewhat an anti-climax when the Malaysian goalkeeper punched the ball into his own goal to give Thailand the consolation of winning the gold that mattered most in the SEA Games, after having conceded the overall title to the host country.
Malaysia who started as the favourite with home ground advantage since the match was played at the Shah Alam Stadium and backed by a capacity crowd of almost 80,000, were in disarray right from the start and culminated into the fatal error by Muhammad Haziq Nadzli who while trying to clear a corner, punched the ball into his own net.
Since the misfortune in the 38th minute, Malaysia were chasing shadows till the injection of a number of substitutes late in the second half, a move that saw some promising moves into an otherwise comfort zone for the Thai defenders.
With the defeat, Malaysia’s wait to win the football gold medal continued after the 1989 victory when hosting the games.
In 2001 when Malaysia hosted the Games and emerged as the overall champion with 111 gold medals, Thailand also dashed the hopes of millions by emerging with a 1-0 victory.
The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah who was accompanied by Tengku Permaisuri Selangor, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin, Tunku Mahkota of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (FAM President) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak watched the match.
The match started with a slight drizzle as coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee fielded an almost similar side that beat Indonesia 1-0 in the semifinals but after missing a golden chance to score early in the match, Malaysia failed to create any worthy chances until 10 or 15 minutes before the end.
The corner kick awarded to Thailand was itself a self distructive move by Safawi Rasid who instead of controlling the ball, decided to pass it to a defender when he was not under any sort of pressure and his stray pass resulted in the corner.
It was following the corner kick taken by Sasalak Haiprakhon that Muhammad Haziq punched the ball into his own goal to the delight of about 5,000 Thailand supporters.
Malaysia launched raid after raid in the final 20 minutes but poor finishing was the order of the day, leaving the fans disappointed.
“If you ask me about tonight’s result, of course I’m not happy since we failed to win the gold medal but overall, I’m quite impressed with the performance shown by the boys in this SEA Games although we only managed to train within a short period,” said Kim Swee.
Thailand head coach Worrawoot Srimaka on the other hand praised his charges who put up a spirited performance throughout their campaign by conceding only one goal in their run up to retaining the gold medal that they had won in the 2015 edition hosted by Singapore.
“I’m proud with the performance of my boys who were mostly making their debut in the SEA Games. They performed very well in every match and I hope they will continue their fine form at the AFC U-23 Football Championship in China, next year,” said the 45-year-old Songkhla-native who had won the gold medal with Thailand for three consecutive SEA Games in 1995, 1997 and 1999.