KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia kept their unbeaten record against neighbours Thailand after holding the defending champions to a goalless draw in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The Harimau Malaya have not lost to Thailand at home in 47 years and the Thais’ only win on the Malaysian soil was at the 1971 Merdeka Tournament where they won 2-0.
While Malaysia kept their bragging rights with a spirited display yesterday, they will face an uphill battle in the second leg in Bangkok on Wednesday.
National coach Tan Cheng Hoe was happy they did not concede against the War Elephants but he surely rued the many chances his players created but failed to capitalise.
Cheng Hoe kept the same line-up and the 4-4-1-1 formation from the previous match which saw Malaysia beat Myanmar 3-0 in their final Group A match last week.
Thai coach Milovan Rajevac, however, made two changes to his line-up from their last match, bringing in defender Mika Chunuonsee for Philip Roller and midfielder Nurul Sriyankem for Pokklaw Anan.
After a cautious start, Malaysia tightened the screw from the 15th minute, probing the Thai’s backline with Norshahrul Idlan Talaha being the focal point of attacking moves and flanking runs from Safawi Rasid and Mohamadou Sumareh.
A flurry of attack pegged the Thais to their own half and Sumareh had the best attempt to break the deadlock.
The Gambia-born Sumareh’s first attempt went wide in the 26th minute and three minutes later he also misfired.
Thailand central defensive pairing Pansa Hemviboon and Chalermpong Kerdkaew proved to be a tough nut to crack as they kept the Malaysians from making a breakthrough.
In the second half, Thai coach Rajevac swapped Pokklaw for the ineffective Supachai Jaided and brought in Pakorn Prempak for Nurul in the 59th minute to strengthen the team.
The Thais looked more menacing after the changes with their counter-attacking moves and Thitipan Puangchan could have put his side in front but his attempt went too high in the 67th minute.
Disaster struck for Malaysia after Sumareh picked up a hamstring injury in the 60th minute and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri was brought in as the replacement in the 62nd minute.
Ten minutes later, Cheng Hoe was forced to make another change after leftback Syazwan Andik Ishak was injured and was replaced with Nazirul Naim in the 72nd minute.
Malaysia’s last throw of the dice came through the substitution of striker Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak for Shahrel Fikri Fauzi to add bite up front in the 81st minute but the Thai’s held on for a goalless draw.