MIKA Chunuonsee damped down fears that Thailand’s AFF Suzuki Cup defence had been jeopardised by the draw with Malaysia in Saturday’s semi-final first leg, vowing the War Elephants would charge back on Wednesday.
Five-time champions Thailand were kept at bay by Malaysia’s aggressive play in front of 87,000 fans at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, the match ending 0-0.
The Thais once again failed to post a win over their neighbours on this pitch, having lost all three previous AFF Cup encounters to the hosts here.
Thailand were widely criticised for performing below par as the defending champions and top-ranked team in the region. But the 29-year-old Welsh-Thai Bangkok United right-back reckons a draw leaves the War elephants well poised for the home game on December 5. “There’s no damage with the draw,” said Mika, who made the first team for the second consecutive game after playing the final Group B match against Singapore. "Our goal was not to lose the game ahead of the semi-final at home. It’s just a shame that we didn’t get an away goal. But it was really tough to play Malaysia at their home,” said Mika, who played with the Cardiff City youth team from 2005-07.
Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac said the condition of the grass and the huge turnout at Bukit Jalil had put his players off their stride, but Mika offered a different view. “Even if there are more than a hundred thousand fans, in the end it’s 11 players against 11 players. We knew Malaysia would play a hard game, which made it tough for our defenders. We could have counter-attacked better but we didn’t play our game as much as we should have.”
Thailand host Malaysia on Wednesday at 7pm at the Rajamangala National Stadium, in a game televised live on Channel 7. The Thais lead Malaysia in the tournament head-to-head record with six wins, four draws and three defeats.
“I’d love to see them play an attacking game again, as this time things should go our way thanks to home advantage and especially the support of our fans. I hope they show up in huge numbers, just like in Malaysia, to cheer us on. ... I think we can pull it off,” Mika said.