PALEMBANG - Host Indonesia did Malaysia a big favour by beating Thailand 2-1, a result that helped Malaysia who beat Laos 5-1, move into the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup when both the group matches ended in Jakarta and Palembang respectively Tuesday night.
Malaysia who lost to Indonesia and drew with Thailand in their first two matches, needed a win over Laos in Palembang to keep their hopes alive and depend on the outcome of the match between Indonesia and Thailand which was held simultaneously in Jakarta.
If Thailand had beaten Indonesia tonight, Malaysia's win would not been academic and coach K. Rajagobal's boys would have started packing for home.
Indonesia who were trailing Thailand 0-1 until the 70th minute, however scored twice from the penalty spot, incidentally through Bambang Pamungkus, a player who needs no introduction to Malaysian fans as he had made his mark with Selangor in the M-League a few years ago.
Malaysia on the other hand took an early lead through Amri Yahya in the 4th minute but Laos who had held Thailand to a 2-2 draw, hit back in the 8th minute through Lamnao Singto to cancel the advantage but Amri was on cue again in the 40th minute to restore the lead before half time.
With news that Indonesia and Thailand were still scoreless, the Malaysian boys trooped out of the rest room with renewed vigour and determination while the injection of K. Gurusamy for two goal hero Amri, also proved timely.
Mohd Amrulhadi Zainal (73rd) and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (76th) took advantage of some poor defending by Laos to put Malaysia in a comfortable position while an own goal by Kitsada sealed a much deserved 5-1 win for the Malaysians in pouring rain.
With the outcome, Malaysia advanced to the semifinals as Group A runner-up behind Indonesia and meet Vietnam, Singapore or the Philippines who decide on the outcome Wednesday.
In Wednesday's matches, Philippines, the surprise package of the tournament who lead Group B after beating defending champion Vietnam and holding Singapore to a draw, take on Myanmar in their final match while Vietnam and Singapore meet each other in a do-or-die encounter.