SINGAPORE: Thailand lifted the AFF Suzuki Cup for the sixth time on Saturday (Jan 1) despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Indonesia in the second leg of the finals at the Singapore National Stadium.
The War Elephants, who thrashed The Garuda 4-0 in the first leg on Wednesday, earned an impressive 6-2 aggregate victory.
Indonesia came out as the more aggressive side this time, and a low shot from outside the box by midfielder Ricky Kambuaya in the seventh minute gave South Korean coach Shin Tae-yong’s men a 1-0 lead.
It was only the second goal Thailand had conceded in eight games in the tournament, but they responded to the setback in a positive manner.
Indonesia goalkeeper Nadeo Argawinata made good saves to deny Teerasil Dangda and Thanawat Suengchitthawon, while Supachok Sarachat grazed the crossbar as the Thais outshot their opponents 10-3 in the opening half without reward.
Prolific striker Dangda squandered a golden chance to equalise for Thailand, as his right-footed attempt from the centre of the box went over the bar at the end of the first half.
Brazilian-German coach Alexandre Polking’s side revved up their game in the second half, however, the pressure paid off in the term of two goals in three minutes shortly after the interval.
The equaliser arrived in the 54th minute when substitute Adisak pounced on a loose ball after Nadeo had parried Bordin Phala's shot and rifled the ball into the net.
They then took the lead when Sarach Yooyen's low effort was turned into the net by defender Asnawi Mangkualam.
Egy Maulana Vikri pulled one back for Indonesia with a tight-angled finish from the left side of the pitch in the 80th minute to level it, but Thailand comfortably closed out the remaining minutes to regain their position as Southeast Asia's top side.
The match was played without four members of Indonesia's national team after they were barred from participating for breaching COVID-19 safety measures in Singapore.
In a media statement, Sport Singapore said Elkan William Tio Baggott, Victor Chukwuekezie Igbonefo, Rizky Ridho Ramadhani and Rizky Dwi Febrianto left their hotel for up to two hours on one evening, which is against the controlled itinerary rules.
Thailand emerged champions of the inaugural AFF Cup in 1996, before sweeping four more titles in 2000, 2002, 2014 and 2016.
Indonesia, meanwhile, are still unable to break their finals "curse", having finished as runners up six times.