Malaysia defeated reigning champions Thailand 2-0 in the final of the ISTAF SuperSeries MALAYSIA 2014/15 MELAKA at the Malacca International Trade Centre today.
It was Malaysia’s first ever ISTAF SuperSeries victory, created in this 753-year-old historical city of Malacca which is also where the game of sepaktakraw originated in the 15th century according to written records in the Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu.
The Malaysians won 21-7, 21-19 in 50 minutes to capture the coveted trophy in this second round of the ISTAF SuperSeries 2014/15, witnessed by the Malacca State Executive Councillor for Sports and Health, Datuk Hj Ab Rahaman Ab Karim, National Sports Council director-general Dato’ Ahmad Shapawi Ismail and more than 3,000 fans who had filled the seats in MITC two hours prior to the start of play.
The Thais have been a dominant force since the 2011/12 inaugural event, winning all ISTAF SuperSeries tournaments. It is also the first time that the national sepaktakraw team defeated the Thais after their gold-medal winning effort at the 2005 SEA Games in Manila, closing a 10-year-old sad chapter.
The hosts also played second fiddle to the Thais in the final of the season opening ISTAF SuperSeries MYANMAR 2014/15 following a 2-1 defeat at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium in Nay Pyi Taw last November.
Malaysian coach Abdul Talib Ahmad, said: “This has been a fantastic moment for us. Our players rose to the occasion and this mesmerised the Thais in the first set. Syahir (Rosdi) played some superb serves and Farhan (Adam), Hanafiah (Dollah) and Khairol (Zaman) did most of the damage at the net.”
“We made tactical changes and that served us very well. This victory has been a boost in our preparation for the third round of the ISTAF SuperSeries and the SEA Games,” added Ahmad.
Malaysia made one change to the side that defeated Singapore in Saturday’s semi-finals. The introduction of Hanafiah as striker instead of the regular Khairol in the first set alongside team captain and feeder Farhan and Syahir (tekong) was a tactical change that mesmerised Thailand.
The Thais had ace striker Thawisek Thongsai in their side, rested the left-footed Siriwat Sakha as tekong in place for Kritsanapong Nontakote instead but retained Panupong Petlue in the feeder’s role.
But the day certainly belonged to the Malaysians, who were simply mercurial at all fronts with Syahir serving out seven aces at speeds of 75km/h while Hanafiah and Farhan combined effectively with a total of 11 spikes domination the net to win the first set 21-7 in 18 minutes much to delight of the fans.
The second set went Malaysia’s way in the initial stage with the hosts leading 6-3 but the Thais drew level at 8-8. However, the introduction of striker Suriyon Koonpimon, replacing Panupong, changed the momentum of the game, bending very much towards the Thais who for the first time shot into a 10-8 lead and then 15-12 much to chagrin of the Malaysian bench and fans.
Coach Abdul Talib’s decision to introduce Khairol at this stage, proved to be a turning point for the Malaysians. The nippy striker proved to be a bane to the Thais as his leaping spikes and perfect timing to block any attempts by the champions proved fruitful.
The Thais rallied back strongly to level at 17-17 and then closed in at 19-19 but another ace from Syahir moved the hosts to 20-19 and in the ensuing rally Suriyon sent the ball out much to the celebration of fans, players and team officials.
In the match for third-fourth placing, Korea defeated Singapore 21-16, 21-16 for some consolation while Myanmar edged China 21-16, 21-13 to claim fifth position and Indonesia made up for their group stage disappointment with a 21-18, 21-17 victory over Japan to end seventh.
The National women’s team once again avoided finishing in last position with a 21-8, 21-9 victory over Japan. The inexperienced Malaysian side closed fifth in the tournament, emulating their position in the season opening ISTAF SuperSeries MYANMAR 2014/15 in Nay Pyi Taw in November last year. Myanmar, meanwhile, saw off Korea 21-17, 21-15 to finish third.
Thailand, who won every single ISTAF SuperSeries title since the first tournament commenced in 2011, showed no sign of giving up their dominance of the game by defeating Vietnam 21-8 in the first set 12-12 in the second.
ISTAF SuperSeries MALAYSIA 2014/15 MELAKA is the second leg of the ISTAF SuperSeries after the success of the opening round in Myanmar. The tournament is jointly organised by the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) and Asia Sports Ventures (ASV), ISTAF’s exclusive global commercial and developmental partner. It is being held with the support of the Malacca State Government and Sepaktakraw Association of Malaysia.
ISTAF SuperSeries MALAYSIA 2014/15 MELAKA was televised on ASTRO Arena, ASTRO SuperSports, ASTRO SuperSports HD and RTM. For the very first time, fans could also catch all four days of tournament action live on www.sepaktakraw.org.
Final: Malaysia bt Thailand 2-0 (21-7, 21-19).
3rd-4th Playoff: Korea bt Singapore 2-0 (21-16, 21-16).
FINAL: Thailand bt Vietnam 2-0 (21-8, 21-12).
3rd-4th Playoff: Myanmar bt Korea 2-0 (21-17, 21-15)