Thailand becomes champions for the sixth time

Thailand’s Adisak Kraisorn (second from left) celebrates with his teammates after scoring his first goal against Indonesia in the second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final. (PHOTO: Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – Thailand clinched a record sixth AFF Championship on Saturday (January 1st) after a 2-2 draw with Indonesia at the National Stadium gave them a 6-2 aggregate victory to recapture the Suzuki Cup, which they last won in 2016 had won.

Most of the work was done for the Thais in Wednesday’s 4-0 first leg win, but they were still faced with a barrage of attacks as Indonesia desperately tried not to lose to finalists for the sixth time.

However, two rapid fire goals in the second half kept the Thais firmly in control of the trophy as they claimed their biggest overall win since the two-legged Suzuki Cup final in 2002.

Even before kick-off, Indonesia was shaken by news that four of its players – Elkan Baggott, Victor Igbonefo, Rizky Ramadhani and Rizky Febrianto – had been banned from the tournament for violating the team’s controlled itinerary as part of the competition’s safe management measures .

As part of the controlled travel route, players and officials can only move between the hotels, training facilities and competition venues assigned to them. There is nowhere to travel or any activities outside of the itinerary.

The four players had left their hotel on one of the evenings.

Despite the huge setback, the Indonesians still managed to score an early goal to give them hope of somehow making up for the huge deficit in the first leg. Midfielder Ricky Kambuaya’s speculative shot from outside the box in the seventh minute somehow slipped through the hands of Thai goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen and rolled into the net.

Inspired by this glimmer of hope, Indonesia stepped up their search for more goals and the game ended in a series of minor fouls, with the Thais resolutely defending after Siwarak’s slip.

In the 54th minute, the nerves were finally calmed when they equalized the 5-1 overall advantage. Bhordin Phala’s attempt was blocked by Indonesian goalkeeper Nadeo Argawinata, but veteran striker Adisak Kraison, who was substituted on for Teerasil Dangda at halftime, took the ball home.

Two minutes later, Thailand scored another goal against the demoralized opponent when Sarach Yooyen’s Rammler shot into the net from outside the box to cheer the Thai fans in the stadium.

Egy Maulana scored Indonesia’s second goal of the evening with a well-made shot in the 80th minute.

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