Rajagopal: Red card was the real turning point

Malaysia boss Datuk K. Rajagopal claimed that the first half dismissal of Fadhli Shas was the key turning point in his teams Suzuki Cup semi-final defeat in Thailand

After their 2-0 loss to Thailand which eliminated them from the Suzuki Cup, Malaysia boss Datuk K. Rajagopal claimed that the first half dismissal of Fadhli Shas, after a seemingly innocuous incident with Datsakorn Thonglao, had a major impact on the game.  “We expected this level of pressure. But still we played well early in the first half. The red card was the real turning point. With equal players I'm sure we should have got a better result."

The under fire manager also believed that the pressure of the occasion weighed heavily on the South Korean referee, Lee MinHu.  "The referee just couldn’t keep up with the game when the pressure from Thailand was on.”

Despite a lacklustre showing by him team, even when they had 11 men on the pitch, Rajagopal was not critical of his players.  “All in all I'm satisfied.  I won't blame my players. I just want to analyze and fix our errors."

Malaysia striker Safee Sali was full of praise for Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda, who opened the scoring and is now the competitions leading goal scorer with five goals.  “Teerasil is very dangerous. All the players behind him support him very well, especially Datsakorn. He always supplies very good balls.”  Sali also believes that Teerasil is currently the best striker in ASEAN and can help fire Thailand to victory over Singapore in the final: “He's very sharp and keeps the ball well. Thailand has every chance to win this tournament."

Thailand manager Winfried Schafer was delighted with the performance of his team and felt that he was justified in keeping faith in his starting 11.  “We're happy tonight. It was a fantastic performance from us. In the last 15 minutes we were still looking for 3rd or 4th or 5th goals even though we could keep it 2-0, but we just couldn't finish it.  This is exactly the same line up in KL four days before. Even though we didn't play well that night, we believed in them, and now they showed how good they can be. The deserving winners."

The German boss didn’t feel that the first half dismissal of Fadhli Shas necessarily affected the final result.  "Even if it was 11 vs. 11, I believe the result would have been the same. The important thing is we could handle the crossing which caused us many problems in the last game. Koh (Datsakorn) supplied many good balls for Mui (Teerasil), that's why we won."

Goalscoring hero Teerasil Dangda was overjoyed at reaching the final and dedicated the win to the Thai fans:  “Surely I'm glad we're into the final. I have to thank you all the supporters who came here and supported us. This win is for them.”