It was a heartbreaking loss for Malaysia in the football final of the 2017 KL SEA Games after a defensive mistake allowed Thailand to emerge as the champions and thus retain the gold medal they won in the last edition. In a tense final, it was goal keeper Haziq Nadzli's costly mistake just before half time that turned out to be the decisive factor as Thailand won 1-0 at Shah Alam Stadium.
Thailand could have gained an upper hand early on when Phittiwat Sookjitthummakul went through inside the box and seemed to be taken down by Adib Zainudin, but somehow the referee signalled play on and it was a lucky escape for Malaysia in the 5th minute.
Malaysia would roar back with an attack of their own just seven minutes later when Jafri Chew flicked Nor Azam Azih's corner kick. However N. Thanabalan arrived just too late to connect with the ball. The next period of the match was one of Thailand's dominance. Chenrop Samphaodi struck a shot wide in the 17th minute while Picha Au-Tra's header in the 27th minute was saved by Haziq Nadzli.
Again Malaysia provided some form of resistance immediately with Nor Azam going close in the 30th minute. Driving through midfield, the Pahang midfielder struck a good shot which didn't quite dip just in time and sailed over Nont Muangngam's bar.
Then came the moment which changed the perception of the match in the first half. Having gone toe to toe with the mighty Thais for most parts of the first half, Malaysia conceded a sloppy goal in the 39th minute. Sasalak Haiprakhon's corner kick was punched into his own net by Haziq, which put Thailand 1-0 up at the break.
That goal seemed to affect Malaysia in a big way and it was the Thais who looked to be the one adding to the score line. Twice they came close after the break and on both occasions, it was the powerful running of Samphaodi coming in from the left hand side that seemed to caused trouble to Malaysia's defence.
Samphaodi's crossing from the left hand side, inevitably found Worachit Kanitsribumphen and twice Adam Nor Azlin came to Malaysia's rescue, reading the situation well to block Kanitsribumphen's goal-bound shots.
Datuk Ong Kim Swee rang the changes immediately after by bringing on Daniel Amier for the ineffective Syamer Kutty Abba in the 64th minute while moments later, left winger Safawi Rasid followed Syamer to the bench, with Syafiq Ahmad coming on in his stead.
With less than 20 minutes remaining in the second half, Malaysia started to throw more bodies forward in search of the equaliser. Syafiq had an attempt saved in the 73rd minute before a powerful Syazwan Andik drive in the 78th minute had the crowd on the feet but the ball sailed agonisingly high over the bar.
Ong's last throw of the dice of the introduction of Akhyar Rashid. The diminutive Kedah youngster brought a breath of fresh air to Malaysia's attack. Showing very little fear, the 18-year-old's presence on the pitch caused mayhem to Thailand's defence.
However, that wasn't enough and the War Elephants continued to stay strong and compact until the final whistle. Without the usual backing of Malayan Ultras, Malaysia struggled to put up a performance that match their winning run up to the final. Ultimately, the Thais proved they are still the best in South-East Asia