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Valiant Malaysia go down to Thailand in SEA Games despite improvement

Malaysia put up an improved performance against champions Thailand but lost 1-0 in a Group B game of the SEA Games on Thursday. Photo credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters

2011 champions Malaysia turned in a much improved performance but still face an uphill struggle to qualify for the football semifinals of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games after falling to a 1-0 defeat to holders Thailand in Singapore.

On a steamy Thursday afternoon at the Bishan Stadium, Ong Kim Swee's side kept the fancied Thais at bay in an impressive defensive display before conceding with less than 10 minutes to go.

Captain Sarach Yooyen made the breakthrough with a stinging left-footed shot from outside the box that gave Malaysia goalkeeper Farhan Bakar no chance.

Malaysia have just one win -- or three points -- from their opening three Group B matches with two games to go. The top two sides from the pool will move through to next week's semifinals, with Vietnam and Thailand in pole position to advance.

Thailand, who remain top of Group B with nine points and no defeats from three games, made a lively start with two corners and three shots in the first 10 minutes.

Danger man Chanathip Songkrasin blasted wide from long range in the sixth minute. Four minutes later, the volley of striker Chananan Pombubphua went over the bar with the cross coming in from left winger Rungrath Poomchantuek.

But Malaysia had a good chance to open the scoring when captain Gary Steven Robbat caught Thailand on the quick break only to send his scuffed shot wide after 14 minutes.

Harimau Muda were enjoying more possession but lacked a cutting edge.

Thailand again went close to scoring when a cross from Narubadin Weerawatnodom found an unmarked Thitipan Puangchan only to see the midfielder miss the target in the 27th minute. The same combination threatened in similar fashion just before the break.

The Thais also had two decent appeals for penalty turned down by referee Ma Ning in the lead up to half time.

The second half saw Thailand apply more pressure, with Mohd Amer Saidin clearing off the line after Narubadin had set up Rungrath in the 53rd minute.

In the 59th minute, Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, who had earlier received treatment for an arm injury after a heavy fall, almost gave Harimau Muda a shock lead.

He cut inside his marker and curled in a right-footed shot that was tipped wide by Thailand goalkeeper Chanin Sae-ear.

In the 68th minute, Tanaboon Kersarat's long-range shot was parried by Farhan Bakar and the follow up by Chananan was knocked behind for a corner.

The decisive moment came in the 81st minute when substitute Tristan Do's pass found Sarach in acres in space just outside the box -- and the skipper did the rest.

Malaysia: Farhan Bakar (GK), Shahrul Saad, Nazirul Hashim, Ariff Farhan Isa, Amer Saidin, Matthew Davies, Gary Steven Robbat (C), D. Saarvindran (Faizat Ghazli 57'), Abu Hassan Saari Nurridzuan (Fandi Othman 85'), Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, Amirul Awang Kechik,   

Thailand: Chanin Sae-ear (GK), Suriya Singmui (Tristan Do 69'), Artit Daosawang, Narubadin Weerawatnodom, Tanaboon Kersarat, Sarach Yooyen (C), Thitipan Puangchan (Chaowat Veerachat 77'), Rungrath Poomchantuek (Pinyo Inpinit 58'), Chanathip Songkrasin, Nurul Sriyankem, Chananan Pombubphua

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