Malaysia erased Thailand's 36 years record of qualifying for the semi-finals of the SEA Games football tournament when its footballers defeated the Thai defending champions 2-1 in the last match of Group A played at the Main Stadium of the Laos National Sports Complex here on Friday.
While the Malaysian coach, K.Rajagobal, was cheerful, Thailand's under-23 squad coach Steve Darby was a picture of dejection.At a news conference after the match, Rajagobal credited goalkeeper, Mohd Sharbinee Allawee; substitute player, Mohamad Azmi Muslim; and S.Kunanlan as well as the rest of the team on their hard work, eventhough the team was down 0-1 in the 52nd minute due to a goal by Arthit Sunthorphit."
Although down, my boys strived to get the equaliser. We actually should have settled the match at half-time through three tries but had to wait till the 81st minute to equalise," Rajagobal told reporters.The equaliser was scored by Mohd Nasriq Baharom while the winning goal was scored by Ahmad Fakri Saarani in the 89th minute.
He said on paper Thailand had advantages in physique and in speed but the spirit of his charges was very high today.In the semi-final against Laos on Monday, Rajagobal said he hoped striker Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak, who has an eye problem, would have recovered to shore up the Malaysian attack."Tomorrow, I will have just light training and develope a strategy to take on the hosts, Laos, on Monday," he said.
Darby, meanwhile, said he was responsible for today's loss.Asked again by Thai media whether he took responsibility for the defeat which resulted in Thailand's exit after succesfully being the semi-finalist for 36 consecutive years since the 1973 edition, he said: "I take responsibility."He said his team controlled the match for 81 minutes until the equaliser from Mohd Nasriq killed his team's spirit."We're really dissappointed but I dont want to blame my players. There are no excuses," he said.