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By Martin Petty and Kaweewit Kaewjinda
BANGKOK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Thailand struck two late goals, including a penalty, to snatch a 2-0 first-leg home win over Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup final on Wednesday which was just reward for their relentless pressure in an action-packed game.
They broke the deadlock with 18 minutes remaining when Charyl Chappuis converted a spot kick before Kroekrit Taweekarn sealed the victory with a cool finish four minutes from time.
Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang said Malaysia were tricky opponents and his team would have to be at their best for the second leg which will be played at the packed and imposing Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
“There’ll be 80,000 or 100,000 people in Bukit Jalil and we’ll be the ones under pressure,” he told reporters. “We’ve shown the fans how exciting we can play. We will show them again at Bukit Jalil.”
Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh added: “Thailand played better than us today. Our back line, especially, collapsed after the 70th minute, but we have 90 more minutes to play. It’s not easy, 2-0, but in football anything can happen.”
Thailand were always in control in an action-packed first half, dangerous on the break but nervous in front of goal, with Mongkol Thosakrai blasting over the bar after four minutes and Kroekrit finding the side netting moments later.
Malaysia rode out the storm and created several chances of their own on the counter-attack with Mohamed Amri Bin Yahyah a constant menace for the shaky Thai defence.
Thailand almost went ahead near the break, when Adisak Kraisorn got the better of the Malaysia defence but his spiralling effort was pushed wide of the post by goalkeeper Mohamed Farizal Bin Marlias.
The Thais piled on the pressure in the second half at the Rajamangala Stadium but squandered three clear chances in as many minutes, with Prakit Deeprom, Adisak and Charyl all in space but driving the ball wide or over the bar.
They finally got their break after 72 minutes when Adisak was pulled down and Charyl stepped up to convert the penalty.
Kroekrit doubled the advantage in the dying moments, latching on to Chanathip Songkrasin’s cross inside the area to edge closer to their fourth title in the Southeast Asian contest and leave Malaysia with a mountain to climb in the second leg. (Editing by Ken Ferris)