BANGKOK - Thailand hold a two-goal advantage in the AFF Suzuki Cup final after a penalty and a late strike gave the three-time champions a deserved 2-0 win over Malaysia in Bangkok on Wednesday.
The home side dominated the first leg at Rajamangala Stadium but they were unable to make the breakthrough until 18 minutes from time when Charyl Chappuis converted from the spot after a foul on striker Adisak Kraisorn.
Kroekrit Taweekarn then turned in Chanathip Songkrasin's cut-back on a swift counter-attack with four minutes left to give the Thais a healthy lead to defend in the return match, which will be played in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
The first half was a tight physical battle with both teams struggling to craft opportunities until the stroke of half time when Adisak broke clear after an error by Fadhli Shas but was denied by goalkeeper Farizal Marlias who deflected the effort just wide of his upright.
The Thais took control in the secondhalf but their fine approach work was ruined by poor finishing as Mongkol Totsakrai, Kroekrit andSarachYooyen all failed to get their efforts on target when well-placed.
Amri Yahyah nearly gave the visitors a surprise lead with a low shot that was well saved by goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan but the Thai pressure finally paid off in the 72nd minute when they were award a penalty after Adisak was brought down as he attempted to turn past Fadhli.
Farizal guessed right on the spot kick but Chappuis' effort had too much power as he found the bottom corner for his third goal of the tournament.
The Thais added to their advantage in the 86th minute when Chanathip outpaced Fadhli on the left of the Malaysian box before cutting the ball back for Koekrit to also bag his third goal of the competition.
Indra Putra Mahayuddin nearly cut the deficit with a late header that was well stopped by Kawin but Thailand remained firmly in the driving seat as they look to end their 12-year drought in the ASEAN tournament.